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Razor Blade, Nail Discoveries Haven't Emptied Playgrounds

Crime: After last week's spiking of three Orange County parks, parents still willing to bring their kids say they find the police sweeps reassuring.

May 05, 2002|DANIEL YI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite the discovery of dozens of razor blades and nails in three Orange County playgrounds last week, parents and children took to the parks Saturday, a little guarded, definitely shocked, but feeling for the most part unthreatened because of a new vigilance.

Dana Brown, 39, of Laguna Beach was throwing a birthday party for her 3-year-old daughter, Madison, on the grounds of the city's Main Beach, where authorities found 18 razors in the sand last Sunday.

"We talked about it, that maybe we should cancel," Brown said. "But my husband thought that it might be safe now since people are more aware."

When the 20 or so toddlers arrived for the party Saturday morning, police officers were scanning the area, Brown said. "It just feels like they are monitoring this area closely."

As a precaution, however, most parents made sure their toddlers were wearing shoes.

Police were still searching for suspects Saturday and keeping a close eye on parks with random surveillance and sweeps.

After the Sunday incident in Laguna Beach, more razors and 1 1/2-inch-long construction nails were found in playgrounds in Laguna Niguel and Mission Viejo.

A year ago, razors were found at six parks in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Police never caught the perpetrator, and the incidents stopped by late May.

No one has been reported hurt so far, but the razors and nails were placed strategically to cause harm, hidden in sandboxes and lodged at the bottom of a slide in one case.

"What are people thinking when they do that kind of stuff?" asked Laura McArdell, who regularly takes her 2-year-old son from their Mission Viejo home to a park in the Laguna Hills community center.

The incidents are frightening, McArdell and other parents said Saturday, but the threat seems incongruous in a setting of gated communities and quiet suburban streets.

"This is the last place you'd think something like that might happen," said Tom Christian, 48, visiting Laguna Beach's Main Beach with his wife, Helen, and the couple's three young children.

"It might happen in Venice Beach," he said, "but this place is ... it is normal here. But then again, normal is not normal anymore."

The Christians, of Hacienda Heights, had heard about the razors and nails in the news but hadn't been aware they were in one of the hot spots.

"Oh, my lord!" Helen Christian, 38, said. "I am so surprised. This is such a wealthy area, so safe."

As their children frolicked on the sand and monkey bars under the spring sun, parents said Saturday they will be more watchful. But they added that the razors and nails shattered their sense of safety.

"It doesn't feel like it will be something that will turn into an epidemic," McArdell said. Nonetheless, she now checks all playground equipment before she allows her son to use it.

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