Team 10: Are local parks safe?

Posted at 9:20 AM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 16:47:43-04

Assault, battery, and indecent exposure -- those are just some of the crimes happening at parks in the South Bay, but Team 10 found another issue some residents say is an even bigger problem.

Leo Clayton often visits parks around the South Bay to play basketball with his sons.

"We try to hit all the courts in San Diego … downtown and National City," Clayton said.

He typically feels safe at his local parks, although it didn't surprise him there are some things he should watch out for.

Team 10 obtained the number of crime cases from April 2015 to April 2016 in Chula Vista's biggest parks.

Topping the list was J Street Marina, where there were 17 reported crimes, including two indecent exposure cases. The others were mostly drug- or alcohol-related.

Heritage Park was next on the list, with more than a dozen cases, including a burglary and battery.

However, Clayton said his real concern lately is the homeless.

"We would never throw a party in that gazebo over there because they hang out there all the time," Claytgon said. "They're smoking, doing drugs and drinking. I don't want [anything] to do with that over there."

Team 10 met Clayton at Harborside Park, It is one of Chula Vista's smaller parks, but actually has the highest number of calls to police.

This year, there have been more than 150 calls for service to Harborside Park, with many of those calls connected to the homeless.

"The community expects us to be where the crime is, so we send our officers to where that is. As a result, we end up at those parks," said Chula Vista police Lt. Eric Thunberg.

Homelessness is not a crime, but Thunberg acknowledges it's an issue.

"Unfortunately, there are some folks that engage in drug or alcohol usage, have some addiction issues. There's some mental illness issues," Thunberg said.

The homeless issue is why Chula Vista is forming a new homeless outreach team, adding new positions to the department.

The first priority is not throwing the homeless in jail, but finding services they need.

"Our officers that work that area, they know that there's problems," Thunberg said.

Chula Vista police Capt. Roxana Kennedy said they have been working on getting a dedicated homeless outreach team for at least a year.

Clayton hopes that will help clean up the parks.

"I just wish they wouldn't be drinking and smoking in front of everyone," Clayton said.

Kennedy hopes the team will be in place by mid-July.

The Chula Vista Police Department also provided Team 10 with a list of arrests for this calendar year in the 11 most active parks:

-- Harborside Park: 17 arrests (4 felony, 13 misdemeanor)
-- Memorial Park/Parkway Pool: 13 arrests (4 felony, 9 misdemeanor)
-- Bayfront Park: 2 arrests (1 felony, 1 misdemeanor)
-- Lauderbach Park & Community Center: 2 arrests (1 felony, 1 misdemeanor)
-- Discovery Park: 1 arrest ( 0 felony, 1 misdemeanor)
-- Eucalpytus Park: 1 arrest (0 felony, 1 misdemeanor)
-- Rohr Park: 0 arrests
-- Bayside Park: 2 arrests (0 felony, 2 misdemeanor)
-- Cottonwood Park: 1 arrest (0 felony, 1 misdemeanor)
-- Greg Rogers Park: 2 arrests (0 felony, 2 misdemeanor)
-- Reinstra Ball Fields: 1 arrest (0 felony, 1 misdemeanor)

Team 10 also requested data from the city of San Diego. It was more difficult to obtain due in part to the number of parks in San Diego and there was no list of largest parks readily available.

Team 10 was able to obtain some data from San Diego. The information for those parks and Chula Vista parks are in the interactive map below.