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Oxnard Police Report Backs Policy of Tolerating Cruisers

December 18, 1990|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In sharp contrast to other cities in Southern California, Oxnard police do not frown upon weekly cruising along Saviers Road and suggest that efforts to eliminate the longstanding practice may be problematic and costly.

The conclusions were contained in a Police Department report to the City Council, which will review it Tuesday. The council requested the report in response to a complaint from a resident who said cruisers generate too much noise and litter.

"It's possible to stop cruising," said James Willis, a management analyst for the Police Department who wrote the report. "But then it may show up on Ventura Road or Gonzales Road or somewhere else."

Other cities, such as Los Angeles, Hollywood and Newport Beach, have banned cruising because of noise, traffic and gang violence. But Willis said such bans can be costly.

For example, if the city passes an ordinance prohibiting drivers from passing a particular location too frequently, police would be required to monitor the cruisers and enforce the ordinance regularly, he said in his report.

Such bans can also be unconstitutional, he said. "Although some cities have passed and are using similar ordinances, there is some reason to suspect it may not pass Supreme Court scrutiny and may in fact be unconstitutional because it prohibits conduct that can well be consistent with innocent, non-cruising behavior," Willis said.

Since 1975, Willis said, the Police Department has believed that the best policy is to tolerate cruisers and monitor cruising along Saviers.

To improve relations between police and cruisers, officers have been assigned to act as liaisons with the four car clubs that frequent Saviers Road. The department has also reorganized patrol shifts so that at least five units are assigned to Saviers between 9 p.m. Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday.

Cruising in Oxnard has attracted youngsters from as far as Santa Barbara, where police have been cracking down on cruising along State Street, the city's main commercial thoroughfare.

Every Sunday night, 300 to 500 mostly Latino youths drive back and forth on Saviers Road between Iris and Yucca streets in everything from pickup trucks to low-rider sedans to convertibles.

Police officials and car club representatives say cruising has been a part of Oxnard since the 1960s, when cruisers began driving up and down A Street on Friday nights. In the 1970s, they moved to Cooper Road before moving the weekly event to Saviers Road.

Despite an infrequent scuffle and an occasional complaint from residents about noise and traffic, cruising in Oxnard has been nearly trouble-free, according to Oxnard Police Sgt. Ken Nishihara, who heads the police patrols on Saviers Road.

In an effort to gauge the extent of the complaints, police conducted a survey in April and found that of 185 residents contacted, only 35 people said cruising was a problem.

The most frequent complaint had been about the noise generated by the cruisers' stereos.

Since the state enacted a law in January making it illegal to play a stereo so loud that it can be heard 50 feet from the car, Oxnard police have written more than 100 citations on Saviers Road, Willis said in his report.

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