West Hollywood, Plummer and William S. Hart parks in West Hollywood will be closed three hours earlier beginning in January because of a recent increase in violent crimes, Sheriff's Capt. Mark Squires said.
"We're talking about robberies and assaults," Squires said. "What's troubling me is that our parks are becoming a little bit of a focal point for crime. They're outpacing the rest of the city."
The new policy will close the parks from midnight to 6 a.m., Squires said, replacing the current closing hours of 3 to 5 a.m.
The hours, adopted shortly after the city was incorporated in 1984, have proved a problem as the number of people spending the night in city parks has increased, he said.
Since the parks are open until well after midnight, "it allows people who, in fact, might begin to live in the park to get well into that mode by 3 o'clock in the morning," Squires said.
As a result, people camping out in a park for the night might be sound asleep or drunk by the time deputies start enforcing the closing hours. There have been some confrontations, including five assaults on deputies at Plummer Park since April 1.
There have been 13 assaults at Plummer Park in the last eight months, in addition to one rape, three robberies, six auto burglaries and other incidents, adding up to 34 major crimes, Squires said.
There have been 18 major crimes at West Hollywood Park since April 1, including three robberies, seven assaults and two auto burglaries.
Coming after a 34% drop in crime rates since the city was established, Squires said, these incidents forced him to recommend new park hours.
No Intent to Bully
"The city, I guarantee you, does not intend to bully people," he said. "We're not trying to intimidate people (to move) out of town at all. Quite to the contrary. What we do is play the strict-rules game. . . there are programs (in the parks) and you can make use of them. It doesn't mean you can engage in public drunkenness and abusive behavior, because we'll take action in those cases."
The decision to change park hours was made reluctantly by the City Council, Council Member Steve Schulte said.
"I've always opposed this personally, because I think the parks ought to be open all the time," Schulte said.
"What made me change my mind, and I see this as a short-term measure, is that there is increasing evidence from the Sheriff's Department and neighbors who live near the park that there are unacceptable activities going on at all hours of night," Schulte said.