A proposed school-time curfew aimed at keeping kids off city streets and out of parks and in school is due for action by the Redmond City Council before the end of the year.
Redmond Police Department is putting together a proposed ordinance that will be the subject of a council workshop in December, said Police Chief Ron Roberts.
“We’ll see what council thinks,” Roberts said.Young people gathering in parks during school hours is a continuing concern, he said.The pavilion at Sam Johnson Park seems to be a focus of activity, but the activity is inconsistent so it’s challenging to police, Roberts said.
“A lot of people take their kids to the park; we want to ensure a safe environment for everybody, not just at Sam Johnson, but all city parks.”The purpose behind the proposed curfew that would ban school-age kids from roaming around during school hours on school days is aimed at curbing a problem with young people gathering, particularly in parks near Redmond High School, during school hours.
Complaints to police and city officials have run from criminal mischief to intimidating behavior.Their presence and their actions make other people who come to use the park uncomfortable, Roberts said.
“The pavilion (at Sam Johnson Park) is a great place to each lunch, etc., but if it’s been taken over or there’s the perception that it’s been taken over, people are uncomfortable.”
In response, the police department’s school resource officers, patrol officers, and sometimes Roberts himself have been giving extra attention to parks near the high school.
Two months into the new school year Sam Johnson Park, especially the pavilion area, remains a hang out for dropouts and kids on their way between Redmond and Brown high schools, said Sgt. Craig Unger, Redmond High School's resource officer.
“A lot of kids who’ve dropped out of high school to get their GEDs hang out in the park and try to entice others to join them. They’re lonely and there’s nothing to do,” Unger said.For the most part, they’re likely smoking tobacco before police arrive, but not being all that disruptive, he said. “I haven’t heard lot of complaints.”
Kids who attend Brown stop in the park between Brown and their bus stop at Redmond High School, often to get their nicotine fix, Unger said.If he had an unmarked van and binoculars he probably could write a lot of tickets to minors in possession of tobacco, but from the pavilion kids can see police coming a mile away, Unger said.
While Sam Johnson Park seems to have toned down so far this school year, activity seems to be picking up at Fairhaven Park off Northwest 23rd Street, just west of the RHS Hartman Campus. Graffiti has increased in the park and more kids are found smoking pot there. Recently, a bunch of kids wearing all red were reported at Fairhaven. Kids are dividing themselves into reds and blues – not Bloods and Crips, but trying to identify themselves.
“It’s not good,” he said.If a daytime curfew were enacted there would be kids who would be cited, but it would be just one tool to attack the problem, Unger said.
“Our goal is to get kids out of the parks (during school hours).” The persistent problems led to a community meeting in August organized by Lt. Mike Kidwell. Those attending seemed to think a daytime curfew was the way to go, said Capt. Dave Tarbet.In addition, about 80 percent of those responding to the city’s online survey favored such a curfew, Kidwell said.
The survey drew about 36 responses, Tarbet said.In ferreting out the root cause of the problem of kids in the parks, officials discovered that the problem isn’t limited to the parks, so likely the proposed curfew will include public spaces in the entire city, he said.
Meanwhile, the city recently has been receiving complaints about nighttime behavior in Kalama Park at Southwest 17th Street and Kalama Avenue, Roberts said. One resident took her request for more lighting in the park to city council at its Oct. 14 meeting.
Roberts said the police and public works departments are taking a look at the issue from number of perspectives. For example, some people think that if there is more light there will be fewer problems, but too much light also can cause more people to gather because they think that if a park is lit it’s open, he said. Redmond parks close at dusk.
“We’ll have to look at all those factors and try to find the right balance," he said.Public Works Director Chris Doty concurred.Before the complaint about not enough light came to city council, his department had been fielding complaints from neighbors about Kalama Park having too much light, thus encouraging after-hours play time, Doty said.
As a result of the complaint to council, the city has ordered more street lights for the area near Kalama Park and will reinstall the light on the park’s restroom. Beyond that the city will try to find the right lighting balance between inviting after-hours park use and curbing criminal behavior.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Doty said.