PLACENTIA : City Council Votes to Close Park at Dusk

After hearing from two police officers about an increase in gang activity at La Placita Park, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to close the park at dusk.

The council acted on a request from Police Chief Manuel Ortega, who said the potential for trouble rises daily.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 20 incidents at the park, which is next to the Orange Freeway in the La Jolla neighborhood, resulting in four arrests. Last summer, a youth was killed in a drive-by shooting near the park.

Officers John Armstrong and Tom Valentine told the council that the park is a popular gathering spot for two gangs, one from Placentia and an allied gang from La Habra.

"On Friday and Saturday we have as many as 50 to 60 gang members," Armstrong said. "They have guns, they are drinking, doing heroin and cocaine."

Armstrong said the park is a perfect spot for a drive-by shooting because it is near an elevated section of La Jolla Street.

"This is the first time I've been this uneasy about a situation," Armstrong told the council. "We've lost control."

Several residents of the La Jolla neighborhood supported the plan to close the park at dusk, and encouraged the council and the police to do more to keep gangs out of their neighborhood.

But resident Annamaria Delgado said she wondered if the council's action was just the first step toward closing the park completely. She also warned the council that closing the park would not be accepted peacefully by gang members.

"Grapevine has it that the gang plans to do something about the closure," Delgado said.

Armstrong acknowledged that closing the park was "rattling the beehive," but said the city had to take a stand to return the park to the community.

The city also plans to build a fence at the rear of the park and install lights, which police say will make the park less attractive to gangs.

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