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San Diego increases use of park curfews to control crime, drug use

Ray Hamel and Popcorn, a Maltese poodle, take a break at Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach.
(Milan Kovacevic)

Public safety panel approves curfews for three Pacific Beach parks, for a total of 16 parks with curfews

San Diego is continuing to increase use of nighttime curfews to curb crime, drug use and vandalism in city parks, including three parks in Pacific Beach.

Curfews were approved last month by the City Council’s public safety committee for Fanuel Park, Pacific Beach Library Park and the Mission Bay Athletic Area, which is also called the Bob McEvoy Fields.

If those curfews get final approval from the full council this spring, San Diego will have doubled the number of parks with nighttime curfews from eight to 16 in two years. The city has roughly 400 parks.

In March 2019, the city approved curfews for North Park Community Park, Montclair Neighborhood Park, Cedar Ridge Mini Park, City Heights Square Mini Park and the North Park Mini Park.

The other parks with curfews are Children’s Park, Gaslamp Square Park, Pantoja Park, Children’s Museum Park, Fault Line Park, Cortez Hill Park, University Heights Open Space Park and the Spruce Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Police say curfews can be effective at reducing crime because they limit opportunities for illegal activity and provide officers with another enforcement tool. A curfew allows police to remove people who might be involved in criminal activity without actually witnessing such activity at the time.

However city parks officials say they are cautious about recommending curfews because they would prefer to keep all of San Diego’s parks open to the public as many hours as possible.

In many low-crime neighborhoods, parks remain vibrant community gathering places after dark, especially in summer.

Instead of analyzing crime statistics at all city parks to determine where curfews would be appropriate, city officials say they plan to let individual neighborhoods pursue curfews on a case-by-case basis.

Some advocates for the homeless have complained that parks curfews make it harder for people without homes to find places to sleep, essentially further criminalizing homelessness.

Councilman Stephen Whitburn, whose central urban council district includes several parks with curfews, said he looks forward to a time when crime can be reduced enough that curfews will no longer be necessary. But, Whitburn said, these curfews are warranted.

“I certainly understand the concerns of those in Pacific Beach,” he said.

Several Pacific Beach residents spoke Wednesday in favor of the new curfews.

“Many people in the nearby neighborhood have told me they are afraid to walk, jog or walk their dog in or close to these parks during the evening and early morning hours,” said Marcella Teran, a Neighborhood Watch leader in the area.

Pacific Beach community groups have agreed to pay for signs announcing the new curfews. The city could still approve special events in the parks during curfew hours.

In addition to the parks with curfews, a few dozen other city parks have limited access at night because their parking lots close sometime after sunset. For details, visit sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/night.


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