Beach-area residents wary of tighter rules | Aim to curb crime, supporters say

April 18, 2004 No Comments

Angela Lau. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Apr 18, 2004. pg. B.2

The battle for the beaches continues this summer.

While some beach residents want to restrict the hours fire rings can be used and close Mission Bay Park parking lots earlier, others say such measures could deprive responsible citizens of the ability to enjoy the city’s beaches.

The goal of the proposals is to help reduce beach crime, and they are in addition to a separate suggestion made by a group of Sail Bay residents to ban alcohol on July Fourth at all city beaches.

“We have to go into it with hesitation to make sure we don’t over- regulate and over-restrict people’s access as a cheaper, faster solution,” said Wayne Blum, a member of the Mission Bay Park Committee, a citizens advisory board.

Proponents, who include Mission Beach civic leaders and police, say the measures would reduce late-night disturbances but would not stop visitors from parking on the streets and walking to the beaches. They emphasize the proposals are meant to make it easier for police to maintain order, especially during the peak summer season.

Mission Beach Town Council leaders hope the City Council will embrace their cause.

“It’s all about giving police officers the tools to be able to bring some order,” said J.P. Hegemeyer, president of Mission Beach Town Council, which has championed various restrictions.

Hegemeyer said he, too, wants to protect individual freedom, noting he was one of the staunch opponents of the divisive beach alcohol ban proposition that failed at the polls two years ago.

“But with the kind of open, nebulous regulations we have now, police don’t have the tools they need to be able to definitively say, ‘You are in violation. Leave now,'” Hegemeyer said.

In Pacific Beach, town council President Jim Moore said he has not decided if the proposals would bring peace.

“For the most part, if they use existing laws, they wouldn’t need to go to drastic measures,” Moore said.

Residents in Mission Beach were particularly shocked when three slayings — two of them gang-related — occurred in Mission Beach and Mission Bay Park in the past two years.

There are other residents, who, like Blum, urge proponents of stricter control not to punish many people for the crimes of the inconsiderate minority.

Pam Glover, a member of the Mission Bay Park Committee and the Mission Beach Town Council, supports the idea.

“It is not a right to be able to use the park. It’s a privilege,” said Glover, who stressed she was speaking strictly as a resident. “Because we have so many problems in Mission Bay Park, so much crime, drinking, stabbing, gang activities, it’s probably in our best interest at this time to take control.”

The proposals include closing more Mission Bay Park parking lots at 10 p.m. Such a change also must be approved by the California Coastal Commission.

Some of the 30 parking lots are closed from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and others are closed from 2 to 4 a.m., said Div Brasted, the Mission Bay Park manager.

Last year, police reported 1,623 complaints — 23 percent of the city’s total — about loud parties after 10 p.m. in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, police crime analyst Mike Fornes said.

Police received 1,865 complaints — 13 percent of the city’s total — about loud noise after 10 p.m. from the two communities last year.

Police have said because of limited staffing, noise complaints are not dealt with immediately.

Last year, police recorded 87 violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and assault — in Mission Beach and 255 in Pacific Beach.

The proposal to end the use of fire rings after 10 p.m. is intended to give police greater ability to deal with problems stemming from late-night drinking, said Sgt. Patrick Vinson of the police beach team. Currently fire rings can be used at any hour.

People who are drinking illegally after 8 p.m. can easily pour out their drink if they see police approaching, but they cannot put out a fire as quickly and can be told to leave, he said.

Another proposal is to further restrict the parking of recreational vehicles or trailers in the streets of the beach communities and Mission Bay Park.

Regan Savalla, a deputy city attorney assigned to handle neighborhood nuisances in the beach areas, said she has received complaints that some of these vehicles are parked year-round in beach neighborhoods.

The city prohibits any car from being parked in the street for more than 72 hours and prohibits sleeping in a car, she said. However, police have found it difficult to warn motor-home owners or issue citations because sometimes they do not answer the door. And, when they do come to the door, police cannot cite them for sleeping in their vehicles because they were up at that moment, Savalla said.

Many recreational vehicle owners move their vehicles every 72 hours to circumvent the law. Residents have complained of drug deals and drug use in some of those vehicles, which, when parked in the streets, also block motorists from seeing traffic clearly, she said.

Vinson also said police would like to root out gang problems by documenting gang members who frequent the beaches and seeking injunctions against those who cause trouble frequently.

Savalla said efforts are being made to revoke the probation of people who have been cited repeatedly for being a neighborhood nuisance. That would include people who sleep on the sidewalks or people who were arrested for public drunkenness.

Angela Lau: (619) 542-4584; angela.lau@uniontrib.com
[Illustration]
2 PICS; Caption: 1. Critics of tighter restrictions proposed for the city of San Diego’s beach areas say the rules may keep some people, such as Craig Caddow of La Mesa and his niece, Whitney Sammons of San Diego, from enjoying the beach. One proposal calls for fire rings to be extinguished at 10 p.m. 2. Supporters of tighter rules proposed for beach areas say the measures will help San Diego police enforce existing laws such as these.; Credit: 1,2. Charlie Neuman / Union-Tribune

Credit: STAFF WRITER

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