Six weeks after a teenage boy assaulted a young woman with a knife at the , a task force created to make the place safer held its second monthly meeting and discussed a host of ideas on tackling criminal activities in an area that is a popular community resource located across the street from .
The task force met Wednesday at Yosemite Park to discuss such issues as improving the functioning of security cameras by increasing the bandwidth of their wireless connectivity, installing additional lighting, and how to create public safety signs that would encourage members of the public to call the General Services Police directly during emergencies.
The task force meeting, comprised of a dozen community members, City officials and the new dean of Eagle Rock High School, was chaired by CD 14 Northeast Area Director Zenay Loera and Field Deputy Kai Newkirk from the office of .
Handball Court a Public Menace
One of the key topics discussed at the meeting centered on the pros and cons of tearing down a multidimensional, “H”-shaped handball court and either substituting it with a single wall or constructing a basketball court in its place.
The court, located barely 20 feet from a children’s playground that recently received a $320,000 makeover, is a popular place to play handball. But its right-angled walls also serve as a hiding place for people to drink.
“Older men use the handball court to drink on weekends,” said Morgan Coxwell, an Eagle Rock resident who lives nearby and uses the park, along with his spouse, to take their toddler out on walks.
(At the November 1 board meeting of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, which was devoted to a discussion of neighborhood safety issues, Morgan’s spouse Theresa narrated witnessing first-hand the graffiti, drug use and gang activity that is rampant at the park, making it an unattractive place for parents to bring their children.)
Student Arrested for Smoking Marijuana
Last week, police arrested an Eagle Rock High School student after he was caught smoking marijuana at the park, the school’s new dean, Donald Pinegar, told the task force.
As school security guards detained the boy, a tall, thin man wearing a baseball hat backwards hovered nearby, said Pinegar, adding that the man, who often rides a bicycle, routinely sells marijuana at the park.
President Michael Larsen, who was present at the meeting and instrumental in the creation of the task force, said the same man was often seen on the street where he lives on the outskirts of Eagle Rock High.
Pinegar informed the task force that he regularly conducts random searches of students and their bag packs at Eagle Rock High in an effort to crack down on what he acknowledged was the rampant use of marijuana by students.
Initially, the searches turned up lots of marijuana and pipes used to smoke them, Pinegar said, adding that lately it’s been hard to find students carrying drugs.
“I don’t put up with anything,” Pinegar said, explaining that he starts his rounds of the park at 7:30 a.m. in conjunction with a school security guard who knows just about every student by name. “I’m sorry I can’t be here after four o’clock,” Pinegar said. “I also have a life to live.”
ERHS Security and Police May Team Up
Joseph Orlanes, a senior lead officer with the General Services Police, said he’s looking forward to working with Pinegar and his security team to make the park a safer place.
Orlanes urged members of the public who encounter any suspicious activity at the park to call the General Services Police at (213) 978-4670, the department’s dispatch number that is clearly visible on several signs posted on the park’s north end.
What’s critical for the police’s success in apprehending criminals is what Orlanes referred to as “descriptors”—the precise details about what a particular person looks like, including the color of clothes, shoes, hats and any idiosyncrasies worth noting.