Lafayette Police Chief Eric Christensen is a busy man. Not only is he attempting to police his city, but this week he also accepted an unofficial and largely ceremonial title bestowed upon him by civic leaders -- Director of Park Security.
The park in question is Lafayette Community Park, scene of weekend soccer games and picnicking families, but recently also the scene of some disturbing incidents which have neighbors angry and city leaders looking for solutions.
"For reasons unknown to us, this summer has seen an unprecedented increase in vandalism at the Lafayette Community Park, with the most egregious instances being and the more recent discovery of a homeless camp and trash heap," City Manager Steve Falk wrote in his weekly summary. "Given these problems, the City will increase security at the Park, effective immediately..."
Tag, chief, you're it.
As if trying to keep the lid on the city at large wasn't enough of a task, Christensen is now attempting to come up with the personnel and resources needed to patrol the 68-acre park.
Falk said the chief will borrow, on a temporary basis, an off-road motorcycle and detail a motorcycle officer to patrol the park during the last hour of his shift each evening. The motorcycle patrol will "operate on a trial basis for the entire month of September, after which staff will sit down and evaluate whether this is a program that should be permanently implemented."
At issue were some problems few people aside from the park's immediate neighbors seemed aware of -- late-night partying by local teens who like the park for its isolation, but who had problems controlling their campfires. Neighbors have also complained of a homeless encampment -- with "residents" moving into the area at night and also setting fires with which to cook and keep warm. A large trash pit was also discovered and cleared by city workers, but some neighbors said it is likely to reappear without continued enforcement.
The chief has assigned his parking enforcement officers to patrol the park when possible in an effort to bolster police presence.
"The officers will develop a presence at the Park and write warnings and citations for smoking, littering, off-leash, and other activities," Falk wrote. "The goal will be to create a sense that, if you break the law in the park, there will be consequences."
The enforcement effort begins immediately, Christensen said.