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Laguna's on Playground Razor Blade Alert

Crime: Sunday discovery in one park after a phone tip has sparked inspections citywide.

April 30, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Laguna Beach has stepped up daily inspections of city playgrounds after the unsettling weekend discovery of 18 razor blades believed to have been placed to harm children in a Main Beach playground.

"It's alarming," Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman said Monday. "I'm glad they were found before someone got hurt."

To prevent injuries, she said, city maintenance workers and police--who already visit municipal parks daily--are being asked to look for razors and other dangerous items and, in some cases, increase the frequency of inspections. "We've already combed the other parks and found nothing," Kinsman said. "There is only so much we can do--we're really [angry]."

The razor blades were discovered early Sunday after a young woman anonymously called police about 4 a.m., warning that some of her friends -- eight males and possibly a female--were going to Main Beach to do something that would injure people. Police dispatched to the area saw nothing amiss, said Sgt. Jason Kravetz, a spokesman for the Laguna Beach Police Department. But a resident arriving at the playground a few hours later found the blades and called police.

"They were placed in very deliberate positions," Kravetz said Monday. "They were in the sand with the blades facing up so that when the kids came down the slide they would land on them. They were also underneath the swing set so that kids with no shoes would step on them. And they were at the top rung of the ladder, obviously to injure children."

Investigators are talking to police in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to determine whether the latest crime might be tied to a rash of similar ones in those cities last year, Kravetz said. In April and May 2001, he said, razor blades were found on or around swings, sandboxes and slides at Heller, Pinkley and Lions parks in Costa Mesa, and at Bolsa and Marina parks in Newport Beach. In October, three more blades were found at Heller Park.

No injuries were reported and no one was ever arrested.

Police are also asking for the public's help in identifying the early-morning tipster. "If anyone knows who called," Kravetz said, "or if the caller herself reads the paper, we'd like her to call us back."

The woman did not dial 911, Kravetz said, and could not be identified through caller ID. If her identity is not quickly learned, he said, police may release a tape of her call to the news media. "Perhaps someone will recognize her voice and contact us."

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