Community-based approach taken to stop skateboarders, panhandlers

Community-based approach taken to stop skateboarders, panhandlers
From left: Sgt. Greg Stahley, Capt. Fred Armijo and Lt. Karen Laser share how they are solving downtown problems with community based policing. Residents said they noticed improvements. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside police are stepping up their efforts in the downtown business district and beach area to address skateboarding vandalism and threatening behavior from panhandlers. 

They shared their education and enforcement plan at the MainStreet Morning Meeting on Sept. 3.

Police have started implementing a focused community based approach in which they educate offenders on city laws regarding skateboarding and loitering downtown.

They are also on the lookout for repeat offenders who are causing problems.

Recreational street skating tricks and sidewalk skateboarding are not allowed in the downtown area.

Skateboarders can skate in the roadway bike lane for transportation.

“We all know it’s a beach town and people use skateboarding for transportation,” said Lt. Karen Laser, Oceanside police field operations. “In the business district skateboarding is not allowed. If it’s vandalism or repeat offenders we need to know about that.”

Oceanside residents at the meeting said they have noticed a difference since police have stepped up patrols.

“I think they handled it just right,” Kim Heim, MainStreet Oceanside director of special projects, said. “A community based approach is a good way to deal with the problem.”

Posting “no skateboarding” signs downtown is being considered by the city.

Some business owners have opposed the signs being posted outside their businesses.

“I hate to be littering the landscape with “no skateboarding” signs, Rick Wright, MainStreet Oceanside executive director, said.

Police have a different point of view.

“You don’t want signs up, but it’s an issue in court,” Sgt. Greg Stahley, Oceanside police resource team, said. “We have to get the message across.”

Police said they are also on alert for individuals displaying aggressive behavior, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and causing people visiting downtown businesses to feel unsafe.

Offenders are often the homeless population.

Police are familiar with and regularly communicate with the population of chronic homeless that live downtown.

“Some people are down on their luck,” Laser said.

“We’re looking for those who make people afraid to walk down the street,” she added.

Recently the homeless population has increased. Laser said Assembly Bill 109, which requires counties to supervise the parole of nonviolent prisoners, has added to that increase.

“Our enforcement is limited,” Laser said. “Oceanside has services that cater to the homeless. It’s known in the transient community.”

Oceanside residents at the meeting said they have noticed an influx of homeless that are aggressive and trespass on private property.

“These are bad people,” said Dick Bartlett, of Oceanside. “These are people who are looking for trouble.”

Police asked residents and business owners at the meeting to continue providing feedback on the increased patrolling.

“We want to enforce the laws strictly, but if we’re too aggressive it can have a chilling effect on tourism, we need a balance,” Capt. Fred Armijo, Oceanside police field operations, said.

Anyone who spots a violation or a person who appears suspicious is asked to call police at (760) 435-4900.


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