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All needed to keep parks clean, safe
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Now that we are finally seeing summer-like weather, our community and neighborhood parks will get much more use. Not only is the improved weather a factor, but high fuel prices are causing people to stay closer to home for their outdoor activities. Depending on how we care for our parks, they can either be the gems of our community, or they can quickly become a scourge if we allow gangs, drug use, litter, graffiti, and uncontrolled pets to take them over. When community members follow the rules and work together with the police, we can have the safest, cleanest and most enjoyable parks in the region.

It is important to set the standard for our parks early on in the season. In other words, now is the time to keep problems from starting. We cannot wait for the gangs to stake out "territory" in the parks, allow acts of vandalism or trash to accumulate, and if people are allowed to violate the various park rules now, reversing these problems later will be a much bigger challenge.

A word to the gangs: to be sure, no gangs will be taking over our parks. Any "takeover" will be by law-abiding people, who have rightful access to all public parks, along with having the expectation to be free from harassment and intimidation. The police will see to that, with the public's help of course. The best method to keep our parks safe and suitable for family use is for law-abiding people to use them frequently, dominate these parks and be intolerant of misconduct, rules violations, excessive noise or any other behaviour that detracts from having safe and pleasant parks.

All suspicious and criminal activities need to be reported to the police without delay by calling Ceres Police Dispatch 538-5712. Providing prompt, detailed information about suspicious activities in the parks as they are happening is extremely helpful. Some areas of the park are monitored by video surveillance, so being specific about what area of the park the suspicious activity is taking place can assist dispatchers in sending officers to the right location, prevent delays, and sometimes even allow for law enforcement personnel to even view the crime as it is occurring.

Alcohol in the local parks is illegal, with exceptions made only by special [limited] permit issued by the Chief of Police. Alcohol has been a factor in most instances of fights or other problems in the parks. Intoxicated people are more likely to litter, fight and create disturbances. Since our parks are intended for family-oriented activities, alcohol and other drugs are prohibited and violations will be strictly enforced.

When driving near parks, please do so carefully and be on the alert for hazards such as balls rolling into traffic, children stepping off sidewalks or crossing the street, sharing the road with bicyclists, etc. Drivers must also be aware of other drivers who may not be paying attention, picking up or dropping off children, looking for parking, or pulling out of parking places.

Dogs must be on a leash at all times for safety reasons, especially insofar as children are concerned. Also, dog fights are common and very dangerous when their handlers are unable to control them. It is important for pet owners to be responsible for their animals, as dog feces is also a problem in our parks. Pet owners must clean-up after their pets without delay.

The skating facility at Smyrna Park has experienced ongoing problems with drug use (marijuana in particular), staged fights, and minors failing to wear protective helmets. The police have already started more patrols of the area and the skaters without helmets, drug users and anyone else who violate the laws will be cited or arrested as applicable.

Generally speaking, our parks are safe and free from quality-of-life detractors, but there are times when it is not so. We strive to keep the parks safe for everyone, and as community members, we need make it clear that we are intolerant of people who trash and commit crime in our parks. This will help ensure the kind of safety and pleasant atmosphere we are seeking in all of our parks.