Beaches placid as city’s police are out in force

July 24, 1995 No Comments

MARIA C HUNT. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jul 24, 1995. pg. B.1

MISSION BEACH — Thinner crowds and an increased police presence made for an uneventful Sunday at Mission Beach.

The additional police were at the beach yesterday in response to shootings last Sunday in Mission Bay Park. In contrast to last week’s tense atmosphere, families picnicked on the sand, bicyclists and skaters whizzed down the boardwalk and groups of young men and women strolled back and forth without disturbance.

“We’re all happy. It’s been very quiet,” said Sgt. Ralph Garcia, who coordinates the Police Department’s beach teams. “Usually when we have something this big and well publicized, the criminal element stays away.”

Two bystanders were wounded by gunfire last Sunday as police chased two men who had been shooting at each other. A crowd estimated to be in the hundreds became agitated because of a rumor that police gunfire had wounded the pair. Police said the bystanders were not shot by officers.

In the opinion of police, beach-front residents and merchants, the 100 police and probation officers who patrolled the area in cars, on foot, on horseback and in all-terrain vehicles made a difference.

Last weekend’s shooting also prompted calls for a ban on alcohol consumption in Mission Bay Park and at Mariner’s Point. A sobriety checkpoint on West Mission Bay Drive netted at least one suspected drunken driver before it was called off because of the traffic jam it caused.

Many beachgoers seemed unaware of last week’s shooting. A man with a baby stroller, who watched as police questioned suspected gang members near a public restroom, said he went to Mission Beach because it is the closest beach to El Centro.

“The weekends are basically a tourist crowd,” said Nick Roth, 16, who rents out beach chairs, sun mats and body boards from a cabana on the sand. “I don’t think they had even heard of what happened.”

Danny Medina, who works at a clothing store near the beach, said that, aside from squabbles over parking spaces, the crowds he saw were mellow.

“This whole thing is guys meeting girls, getting phone numbers,” said the 21-year-old who lives in Ocean Beach. “It’s a big meet market.”

Of the people who were aware of the shooting, none said they feared returning to the beach.

“Shootings happen everywhere,” said Elizabeth Morrison, 16, who lives in Chula Vista. She said she and her friends come to Mission Beach every Saturday and Sunday to relax and watch people.

“It’s a great spot. It’s the place where all the honeys are,” said Michael Crawford, 24, who came to the beach with friends.

The La Mesa man said he understands the police taking precautions, but others said the extra police scrutiny may make some people hostile.

“Life isn’t easy for the black man in San Diego,” said Jessie Davis, a 23-year-old San Diegan. “I understand how it is, but some young black men might be provoked.”

Police, searching for illegal weapons and drugs, stopped a Cadillac Coupe de Ville driving through the Belmont Park parking lot. After receiving permission from the driver, officers looked in the trunk, under the hood and even in the door panels.

The search didn’t turn up anything illegal, but it was typical of the measures police took.

Beach-area residents said they were pleased with the smaller crowds and the absence of the cruising that congests Mission Boulevard most Sunday evenings.

The South Mission Beach jetty — a popular meeting place most Sundays — was half empty yesterday.

Ken Williams, who lives nearby, said he felt comfortable sitting on his back patio overlooking the beach yesterday. Most Sundays, he said, he and other residents encounter people urinating on their back fences, throwing trash in their yards or smoking marijuana. One night he saw a stabbing just yards from his home.

“It’s a really super place to live except on Sunday afternoons,” said Williams, 41. “On Sundays, most of the people who live down here shut themselves in and close the doors. The only thing that makes a difference is the police.”

Garcia said additional police officers will remain on Sunday beach patrols through the end of the summer to make sure crowds are peaceful.
[Illustration]
2 PICS; Caption: 1. Police presence mounts: Visitors to Mission Bay Park stop to admire the horse ridden by Officer Hector Emerson of the San Diego police mounted enforcement unit. A strong police presence at the beaches kept things peaceful yesterday. (B-2) 2. Taking no chances: An officer searches a young bicyclist near Belmont Park. There was tension at city beaches because of a shooting a week ago. (B-2) [1,2. Union-Tribune photos / NANCEE E. LEWIS]

Credit: Staff Writer

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