City extends ban on public smoking to deter vagrants

OCEANSIDE — City Council action to extend the no smoking ordinance will do more than stop smoking.

City Council unanimously approved banning smoking within the pier amphitheater and adjacent plaza on May 6. This not only eliminates the dangers of secondhand smoke and the litter of cigarette butts, but also deters vagrants from gathering and loitering in these areas.

Oceanside police are addressing a spike in out of state vagrants who are aggressively panhandling and brazenly stealing from downtown stores. The group of about 20 vagrants also loiters by the pier amphitheater.

Police Lt. Leonard Cosby said grab and go thefts have happened during daytime business hours. He added the vagrant population that is causing problems is a distinct group, which is different from city homeless.

“The group seems to have become very aggressive in their conduct and panhandling that tends to border on threatening,” Cosby said.

Police are receiving daily reports on the group of vagrants being confrontational, loitering inside hotel common areas reserved for guests, urinating in public, and camping overnight in the amphitheater.

“It is a serious problem,” Councilman Jack Feller said. “It’s not just smoking cigarettes, it’s relieving themselves in a corner, doing everything possible wrong. Policing teams need this tool.”

Police officers at the May 6 council meeting said the additional regulation gives them a tool to address vagrants who are affecting the quality of life of residents and tourists visiting the beach.

The city already has a no smoking ban within city parks and beaches. This includes some greenbelt areas along the beach. The extended smoking ban will make the area by the pier cleaner, safer and more useable.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez suggested further extending the no smoking area to include The Strand beachfront roadway.

The City Council did not move forward with this suggestion. Councilman Jerry Kern said it would be too difficult to enforce a no smoking ban on a public street that includes people smoking inside their cars.

The no smoking regulation at the pier amphitheater and plaza will go into effect in 30 days.

No smoking signs will be posted, and citations will be given if necessary.

Cosby said he encourages business owners and residents to promptly report vagrancy incidents they witness to police so they can be addressed.

“We have a good relationships with business owners and we want to bring this to a rest,” Cosby said.

To report an emergency call 911, to report a non-emergency situation call Oceanside Police at (760) 435-4911.

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