The numbers look impressive: Laguna Beach police officers assigned to a special 24-hour detail patrolling the city’s downtown beach parks made 85 citations or arrests and issued 13 warnings between Sept. 16 and 23, according to a police department news release.
That is a huge increase over routine enforcement numbers, Laguna Beach Police Lt. Darin Lenyi says. And we have no reason to doubt that officers out day and night scouring the area for violators have turned up a lot of people doing things they shouldn’t.
The problem is that we — the press and the public — can’t verify whether this extra enforcement is a huge success or not, because the vast majority of these incidents are “under the radar” so to speak. We also can’t tell where or when the violations took place, or whether the people cited or arrested are locals, visitors or homeless.
Most of the incidents referred to in the department’s news release about the success of the program didn’t show up on the police logs that are available at the department’s public counter.
The majority of offenses during the special detail reported by the department are for drinking or possessing alcohol, followed by marijuana possession, smoking, pedestrian violations, blocking the sidewalk, having a dog on the beach or off leash, and bicycling or skateboarding on the sidewalk or boardwalk.
One officer stopped a group from pitching a tent at Heisler Park, where they thought they could spend a few pleasant nights camping near the ocean.
After all, it’s legal to sleep outside on public land in Laguna, right? Well, yes, but not to pitch a tent under which to lay one’s head.
The beefed-up enforcement started Sept. 16, followed a stabbing incident that occurred during a knife fight among three allegedly homeless men the previous night at 10:40 p.m. in Heisler Park. The victim did not have life-threatening wounds and two men, both allegedly homeless, were arrested.
Following the special detail, police are noticing fewer people sleeping or camping in the beach area, but the department is insisting the enforcement is not specifically aimed at homeless people.
“We don’t know how many [citations or arrests] are of homeless,” Lenyi said. “We’re not targeting homeless people.”
Lt. Jason Kravetz explains that the incidents do not appear on the daily police logs available at the police department because they were infractions, not misdemeanor citations or arrests. That means they are more akin to a parking ticket; not a violation for which the alleged violator will be called into court.
Only incidents handled through dispatch — that is, incidents that are generated by a call to the police or if an officer calls for backup — are placed in the public log, Lenyi said.
So here, for the record, is the department’s tally of incidents during the first seven days of the special detail. We really wish we could corroborate it, but we can’t.
Citations or Arrests:
Possession/Drinking Alcohol in Beach or Park, 26;
Possession of Marijuana, 10;
Smoking on the Beach, 10;
Minor in Possession of Alcohol, 6;
Pedestrian Violations, 6;
Blocking Sidewalk, 5;
Dog on Beach or Off Leash, 4;
Bicycling or Skateboarding on sidewalk or Boardwalk, 3;
Warrant Arrests, 3;
Delaying, Interfering or False Information to Officer, 3;
Tent on Beach, 1;
Climbing in Dangerous Area, 1;
Driving Vehicle in Park, 1;
Glass on Beach, 1;
Drunk in Public, 1;
Discharge of Waste Water in Storm Drain, 1;
Taking of Marine Specimen, 1.
Courtesy Notices (written warnings) issued:
Possession/Drinking Alcohol in Beach or Park, 6;
Dog on Beach or Off Leash, 4;
Smoking on the Beach, 1;
Urinating in Public, 1;
Bicycling or Skateboarding on sidewalk or Boardwalk, 1.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or email@example.com