San Diego residents lobby for curfew at what some call ‘felony park’
A large group of frustrated Pacific Beach residents is lobbying for a curfew for Fanuel Park, which is frequently called “felony park” because of the drug dealing, prostitution, bicycle thefts and other crime there.
Residents launched their campaign for a nighttime curfew shortly after San Diego approved curfews in March for five other city parks facing similar problems with drugs, vandalism and illegal activity.
More than 500 residents have signed a petition in support of a curfew that would be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The parking lot adjacent to Fanuel Park is already closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Police say curfews can be an effective crime-reduction tool because they limit opportunities for illegal activity and provide officers with another enforcement tool.
San Diego City Council voted Monday to enforce nighttime curfews at five city parks, which residents say are a breeding ground for drugs, vandalism and other illegal activity.
The curfews the City Council approved in March increased the number of city parks with curfews to more than 20. Most are in San Diego’s urban core, so Fanuel Park would be one of the first coastal parks with a curfew.
Community leaders and residents say a curfew is badly needed in the park, where there have been nearly 100 criminal incidents reported to police since January.
Since January, the criminal incidents reported in the park — or within 1,000 feet of it — include 36 drug incidents, 13 thefts, eight burglaries, four prostitution arrests, three cases of battery and one assault with a deadly weapon.
“It’s a really unsavory situation, and it’s been going on for years,” said Brian White, president of the Pacific Beach Town Council. “We think a curfew can make a big difference.”
The park is known for open drug dealing, intravenous drug use and “chop shops” where stolen bikes are disassembled so they can be sold for parts. Needles have frequently been found near the park’s bathrooms and in grass where children play.
White said the situation is a health and safety risk for people who use the park and for residents living next to the park, which is bordered on three sides by housing and on the fourth side by Mission Bay.
Residents in the Bay Scene Condominium complex, located next to the park, have endorsed the curfew campaign.
“Over the past several years, our residents have seen an increase in gang activity, drug dealing, intravenous drug use, discarded needles, litter, vandalism and prostitution in the park,” said Robert Citrano, president of the Bay Scene homeowners association.
While San Diego has a large homeless population living near the city’s beaches, White said he doesn’t believe anyone lives in Fanuel Park. He said the park has just steadily become a magnet for crime.
Nearby resident Sandy Algra said she considers the park a local treasure. Her father, Tom Gade, a San Diego City Councilman in the late 1970s, helped get the land set aside for the park.
But Algra said a lack of police presence in recent years has made it dangerous at night, when it often serves as a convenient meeting place for people engaged in illegal activity.
“I love Fanuel Park like it’s my own back yard,” said Algra, who has lived her entire life in Mission Beach and Crown Point. “I strongly dislike the misnomer of ‘felony park,’ but it’s getting that name for a reason.”
The Mission Bay Park Committee voted in favor of the proposed curfew this month. The city’s Parks and Recreation Board is expected to consider the proposal early next year.
Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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