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Editorial: Beating fear for success

The recent 24-hour police presence and crackdown on offenders at Heisler Park, Main Beach and adjacent spots in Laguna Beach should make residents and visitors feel more secure. Nearly 100 violators were arrested or cited during the first seven days of the beefed-up detail, and incidents in the area have apparently plummeted, if this week’s police logs are accurate. (Look at page A6 and note the lack of incidents in Area 1, which has been rife with crime matters all summer.)

Apparently the detail did not happen in time to ease the fears of folks who wanted to come to Laguna Beach to volunteer during Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 19. Organizers don’t know how many people didn’t show up "” and in fact a lot did "” but Clean Water Now! founder Roger Von Bütow says he was shocked by the number of callers who expressed fears about bringing groups of kids out to the beach due to the presence of homeless people.

Fortunately, many overcame their fears and the cleanup was highly successful, but it should be said that Laguna’s numbers did not match the large increase in volunteers seen in other areas this year.

Police are quick to say that the 24-hour police detail did not “target" the homeless, and in fact many people who are housed were caught doing things they shouldn’t have been "” errant dog-walkers and jaywalkers, not to mention the marijuana-puffers. But it appears the enforcement has cut down on the number of people bedding down in the beach parks, which some would consider a happy by-product of the enforcement detail.

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One non-homeless group was cited after they pitched a tent at Heisler, apparently under the impression that the city is now open for beach camping.

If it’s true that far fewer people are throwing down their bedrolls at Heisler, that must be an indication that the homeless population drawn to Laguna Beach include many with criminal activities in mind. Ridding the parks of these folks is a service to the housed community as well as the homeless who are not out to break laws.

As the City Council prepares to ponder a laundry list of proposals on how to attack the “homeless issue" in Laguna, it appears the police force may have made these “problem people" a little less of a problem just by enforcing the law.



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