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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : ANAHEIM

Basketball Hoops Banned From Park

Players object to city's action in response to shooting, complaints.

August 01, 2000|JUDY SILBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The news bummed out basketball players. The Anaheim Parks and Recreation Department had removed the four hoops at Reid Park.

A nonfatal shooting on July 20 prompted the order to take the hoops down the next day. Police said fear of stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders and numerous complaints from residents prompted the suggestion. Residents complained of loitering, drug dealing, drinking and loud and vulgar language at the well-kept park on Orange Avenue near Beach Boulevard.

Neighbors rejoiced at the news, saying the move will help create an environment where parents feel safe to bring their children.

"People are afraid to go into the park," said Pat Kotter, who lives adjacent to Reid Park. The foul language and loud noise coming from the courts upsets residents and keeps them away, she said.

The park has quieted down in the past week, Kotter said. She's seen families strolling in the evenings with their young children, and noted that it's a pleasant change to the park's atmosphere.

Basketball players object to the hoops' removal. They said the Parks and Recreation Department is punishing them for the actions of a few people.

Leroy Washington, 43, said he wants to enjoy the park's facilities just like the people who come to play soccer, Frisbee golf or on the swings.

"I think there's a lot of young hoodlums who come there. They're up to no good," said Washington, who lives in Anaheim and has played basketball on Reid Park's two courts for about 15 years. "But I don't think the whole community should be punished. I don't go there to buy drugs, to cause trouble. I just go there to play basketball."

Terry Lowe, superintendent of recreation and human services, said the parks department likes to add facilities, rather than take them away. However, with bullets flying, he said the action was necessary.

It's not an action without precedent. Several years ago, the Parks and Recreation Department took down handball courts at Pearson Park because of similar complaints. Gang members hung out on the courts, selling drugs and causing trouble, Lowe said. Taking them away solved the problem, he said.

The removal of the hoops will most likely not be permanent, but they will stay down indefinitely, Community Services Director Chris Jarvi said. He intends to hold a meeting with basketball players, residents and police to try to work things out.

John Martinez, 35, who lives a few blocks from Reid Park and has played basketball there for 20 years, said he understands the neighborhood wanting to clean up the park. But he doesn't think taking down the hoops will solve the problems. "The last thing I need is my kids to be dodging bullets, but taking the rims down is not the answer," Martinez said.

Several evenings a week and on weekends he walks to the park to play basketball and relieve stress. During the summer he brings his 13-year old son to teach him the finer points of the game.

Martinez denies the basketball players cause the park's problems. People curse when they miss shots, but "there's a thing called freedom of speech," he said. Most players are African Americans or Latinos and Martinez accuses those who want the hoops removed permanently of racism. "People are afraid of people of a different color. They're forgetting it's a public park."

Lt. K. Switzer denies racism fueled the decision. Police have traced several basketball players to well-known gangs, Switzer said.

"We're not against blacks or basketball, but when the basketball courts draw in known gang members, that's intolerable," Switzer said.

*

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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