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Late-Night Jogging

July 31, 1988

Although this story sounds suspiciously like a sketch from "Saturday Night Live," I swear to you it is true. My wife and I are visiting Los Angeles from New York City. We are staying with another couple who live in a condominium across the street from a park in Studio City.

After having dinner, my friend John and I decided to take a run in the park to work off the excess dinner. Our wives declined on the grounds that at 11 p.m. it was still too warm.

John and I ran about 3 miles through the neighborhood, including the park. Finally, exhausted, we decided to get a drink of water at the park fountain. As we approached it, a woman suddenly appeared and flashed a badge in our faces. She was rather formidable as she barked, "Freeze. Police."

She then told us that we were about to be ticketed for jogging too late. What? Jogging too late, she said. The park closes at 10:30 and you're breaking the law.

She directed us to a picnic table where five or six other hapless joggers were sitting. One woman was with her dog, and in tears. She had been arrested for dog-walking too late. Facing the suspects were five additional officers--all dressed in plain clothes, writing tickets.

As we walked to the table to await our turn, our female officer suddenly turned to me and said: "You carryin' a gun?" . . . and proceeded to frisk me. At this my friend John exploded in laugher, to which the lady officer took great offense. She threatened to take him "downtown" if he indulged in another outburst.

We decided to take this as seriously as possible, but I could not resist asking one of the five officers just what this was really about. Did we look like infamous cocaine dealers? (Gasp!) Homeless bums in designer outfits looking to spend the night in the park? (Unthinkable!) He declined to answer my queries with a stony face. This was serious business, folks.

So, we got our tickets from the LAPD. Needless to say I won't even consider paying it. When we got back to the condo our wives found the story very amusing.

However, in the next day's Times, there was yet another story of a teen-age drive-by murder just a few miles from this park. And we are left wondering if those five officers writing tickets to joggers in the park could not have been more effectively used to deter real crime in Los Angeles.

One thought remains with me as I get ready to return to New York: If there is a less sophisticated major city than Los Angeles in America I have yet to hear about it.


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