Back in December the sun set at 4:52 p.m., but parks in Lathrop didn’t officially close to the public until 10 p.m.
And that scenario has created a lot of headaches for Lathrop Police Services who have had problems with loitering and even drug sales in some of the city’s more popular parks. It didn’t give officers the ability to actually enforce the ordinance until long after it was already dark outside.
That all changed last week when the Lathrop City Council changed the city ordinance governing activity in city parks that will now set the hours from dusk until dawn. The move, which was championed by Lathrop Police Chief James Hood, will help officers get a handle on situations that they were previously unable to respond to.
But the proposal wasn’t well received across the board.
The 3-2 vote – with councilwoman Martha Salcedo and councilman Paul Akinjo dissenting – came only after the council’s questions about how it would affect the youth were answered and staff addressed concerns about making sure that residents using the park for legitimate purposes weren’t adversely affected.
When stacked up against the larger problems that police have been facing, Hood said that the new regulations – which extend beyond just the hours parks are open for use – will help give officers the tools they need to crack down on nuisances.
On top of drug sales in Valverde Park, Hood said that there has been a car club that meets at the Lathrop Generations Center on Wednesday night that often leaves skid marks and burnouts not only at the site, but at intersections throughout town. As many as 200 cars have descended upon the location.
And other nuisances, according to some in the community, have also become an issue.
Day Doyle said that part of the problem with having the parks still open after the sun goes down is that homeless will actually set up tents and sleep under the slides and will remain there until police officers come by and force them to move along.
Manteca had a similar problem with groups assembling in parks years ago that reached a critical state when gunfire was exchanged after gangs started fighting in residential neighborhoods. The city implemented a similar 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. closure policy that is still in place today with exceptions carved out by council minute orders .
The new ordinance tightens restrictions or loitering in the parks, and also outlaws the dumping of any household or commercial trash as well as the use of any soft air or pellet guns.
It will have come back before the council for a second reading and option before it takes effect.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.