HUNTINGTON PARK — The city plans to “take back our parks,” according to Police Chief Cosme Lozano under a plan already under way, proposed by his department and interim City Manager John Ornelas.
In a report to the City Council Oct. 6, Lozano said about 20 cadets will patrol city parks during the day and late afternoon, the time when most families and residents use park facilities.
Regular officers will patrol the parks in the evening to make sure no one is there after parks close.
Lozano said the plan, directed by the council, is to combat complaints by residents that they fear going into the parks because of gangs, truant teens skipping school and the homeless.
He said in the past week 36 citations were issued by cadets for offenses ranging from smoking marijuana, drinking, narcotics use and urinating in public.
Lozano noted that parks were at one time safely patrolled by park rangers, but the cash-strapped city had to halt the park ranger program several months ago and the police department did not have the resources to take up the slack.
He said the use of cadets on bicycles will not affect the general fund, which is facing a $1.4 million deficit this fiscal year as money is available in the police department.
“We will have solid enforcement,” Lozano said. “We will police the parks every day. A senior officer will be liaison to the city and a lieutenant will oversee the program.”
Questioned by the council, Lozano said there are openings for three or four cadets.
Ornelas said the cadets, who will be part-time city employees, must be at least 18, legal citizens with no criminal background.
“I’m already getting positive feedback,” Councilwoman Marilyn Sanabria said.
“The more [citations] we report, the more we will be able to change behavior,” Vice Mayor Graciela Ortiz said.
“This has been long overdue,” Mayor Karina Macias said.