Residents living near Cordata Park have gotten together to take back their neighborhood park from troublemaking juveniles.
In recent weeks, residents have noticed more juveniles hanging out in the park, walls with graffiti, drug use and posters put up by white supremacist groups, police said.
But residents, city officials and police are taking action to stave off the undesirable activities at the 4.5-acre park, located on Cordata Street between Ellis and Garfield avenues.
A neighborhood watch meeting was held in the park last week, attended by about 150 residents as well as the police chief, neighborhood watch representatives and City Council members.
"It was a very positive experience for everybody involved," said Mayor John Collins. "What we will end up with over there is a stronger neighborhood watch with a lot more eyes and ears."
Collins said city officials listened to residents' concerns and what could be done to get rid of the juveniles to restore the family-oriented park as a safe place for recreation and play.
"I feel real good about their response to our concerns. We feel that it's a team effort," said Pauline Henning, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1980. "It also encourages us to bring neighborhood watch back to a major focus in our neighborhood.
"What we need to do is take our park back. It belongs to the families; it's not a hangout park and it won't be tolerated."
Police Chief Elvin Miali said he has increased patrols in the neighborhood and officers are conducting foot patrols through the park.
"There are not going to be any warnings," he said. "If we find people in violation of the law, they will be arrested and carted off to jail."
Signs warning people that drinking is not allowed and that the park closes at sundown will be posted, Miali said.
New park benches have been installed near playground equipment, and the city plans to install better lighting and trim shrubbery for better visibility, he said.
Miali said the juveniles who have been troublemakers at the park are not involved in gangs.
"But groups of youth creating problems won't be tolerated," he said.
Miali said half a dozen youngsters have been arrested in past weeks for disturbing the peace.
Throughout the years, Miali said, there have problems at city parks.
"But there's been nothing like this before," he said, adding that the problems are under control.
"We want to try and put a lid on it before it gets out of hand--and with citizens' support, we will get it taken care of quickly," he said.