Sunday, June 10, 2007
Opting out versus taking back Lincoln Park
For moms and dads in Lincoln Park, taking our kids to the local park often means being surrounded by street people with obvious psychological and addiction problems. While it's part of living in an urban environment, the park goes through cycles where the sheer amount of ne'er-do-wells is rather intimidating when all you want to do is get your kid a little play time. When there are other kids and parents at the park besides just you and your kid, as there are most afternoons, we are offered a buffer of safety, plus it serves to deter the weirdos from hanging around. But in the mornings, when less people are around, sometimes you as a mom and your kid are the only person doing something legitimate at the park.
The reason that there are not more parents and children at the park in the morning is because many residents of Lincoln Park have opted out. Many take their children to nearby Claremont parks, or build large play structures in their backyard, so their child can play safely. I have heard the same statement from over a dozen mothers: sometimes I just don't feel comfortable at Lincoln Park because of the suspicious people hanging around there. I always have to laugh when a parent expresses suprise that there is weird stuff going on at the park; clearly that parent does not take their child to the park that often.
Most of the folks that have opted out would still love for Lincoln Park to become a safe haven for children. We all had romantic visions of the convenience of taking our children to the lovely circular park when we bought our homes here.
There is only one solution the way I see it. People in greater numbers have to call the police and/or park security officers when they see even one suspicious person at the park. Additionally, we have to lock the bathrooms, except for on the weekends.
Keep these numbers handy: The anonymous police dispatch number is 909 622-1241. Security at the park is now contracted out to a private company called Airtight Security. That's right, Airtight Security. So let's make them live up to their name. Their number is 888 954-8273 or 909 946-4747. Keep these numbers on you and make a point of driving by the park when you are coming in and out of the area, so you can see what is going on there and can call the police if you see any suspicious people in the park when you are driving by. Eventually, the word will get out that Lincoln Park is not a good place to do or sell drugs, not a good place to sleep all day if you can't afford a hotel on Holt and not a good day to clean up if you are homeless, etc. But it's not going to magically happen on it's own.
I'm also hereby nominating Thursdays as "Take BAck the Park" day at Lincoln Park. I'm telling as many moms, dads and kids to take their child to the park whenever they can on Thursdays, be it morning, noon (too hot for me) or late afternoon/early evening. I hope we're not the only ones there this Thursday morning, but won't be suprised if we are.
By the way, I called both the police and the security company this past week after seeing the same guy pass my house to and from sleeping at the park every day this week. The people I spoke with at the police department and the security company were both very nice and helpful. They agreed with me that the suspicious man I called about would not have slept at the park for five days straight had he been awoken and questioned enough times. But then my heart sank yesterday when I called after myself, another mom and her father watched the security guard from his car see the same hand to hand transaction that we saw, but did nothing in response but drive away. This time my call with the police was quite different. The operator had an attitude with me and told me that the police do not oversee the park security. Huh? If all the park security is going to do is let the drug deals know that they can deal drugs in front of them, then the security is part of the problem. I will direct all my future calls to the police number.