Antioch, CA mulls curfew to sweep parks of vagrants FWD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 18:32:12 -0700 (PDT)
FWD Contra Costa (California) Newspapers Inc. - April 29, 1998


    By Imram Ghori, Staff Writer

    ANTIOCH -- Police may have a new tool available to clear vagrants out
of public parks.

    Spurred by increased complaints about public drunkenness and littering
at City Park at 10th and A streets, the city is considering putting in
place a dawn-to-dusk curfew at all parks. Currently, the park curfews are
at 11 p.m.

    Police Chief Dave Lewis said it's been a problem for years with
vagrants drinking, using drugs and fighting at the park, disturbing nearby
residents and park-goers. It's also been used by some as a place to spend
the night.

    "They've chosen for various reasons to use the park as a haven for
acting out, primarily for consumption of alcohol," Lewis said.

    Many, although not all, are homeless, he said.

    Lewis said police can't regularly patrol the park because of staffing
constraints, but the proposed curfew would allow them more latitude.

    "What it will do is give the officers more ability to remove people
from the park at various times," Lewis said.

    City Recreation Services Manager Lonnie Karste said the dawn-to-dusk
hours are the standard for most cities. He said it wouldn't affect groups
that have permits for sports activities.

    The proposal will go to the council in mid- or late May for consideration.

    Antioch resident Robert Kilbourne said he's seen broken glass and drug
paraphernalia lying about the park on some visits.

    He said his complaint isn't so much the homeless congregating in the
park but the problems that result.

    "As long as they respect the people and the families there and the
kids, there shouldn't be a problem with it," Kilbourne said. "It's just
those that are drinking, smoking -- I'm not talking about cigarettes-- and
the other things going on that I have a problem with."

    David Perry, an Antioch resident who lives on A Street, recently told
council members the vagrants' behavior at the park is deterring residents
from using the park. It was at his suggestion that the city looked at
revising park curfews.

    But one group of park-goers, gathered around a barbecue pit where a
volunteer from a local church was  cooking them a meal on Thursday, said
they get a bum rap. They said police have already scared off other homeless
people from coming to the park.

    "The police run us out every time there's a ballgame," said Dolores
Gentry, 51, a former health-care worker who said she's been homeless for
about a decade.

    She said there are few other places that she can go in the city. She
doesn't like the problems either, Gentry added.

    "I'm trying to do my best to pick up trash," she said. "I don't like
this either, man. When I first started coming to this park, it wasn't like

    Another man said the homeless like to sit in the park and watch games
just like anybody else.

    "If you're not doing anything wrong and want to sit down with a friend
(and talk), you should be able to do that," said one man in his 40s who
identified himself as Pow Wow.

    "The city ought to leave them alone," added Roger Heath, a volunteer
from the Brown Bag program.

    Lewis said he agrees that there aren't enough resources to deal with
the homeless issue but said that's not something the police can solve.

    "Our focus is dealing with the problems at City Park," Lewis said. "Our
focus is not dealing with the homeless issue. That focus is much greater
than the city can deal with."


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