September 2, 2009 in Idaho

CdA targets vandals with park curfews

Violation could be a misdemeanor offense
By The Spokesman-Review

People who stay in Coeur d’Alene city parks past 11 p.m. soon could be penalized.

The Coeur d’Alene City Council on Tuesday voted to close parks between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during Daylight Savings Time. Parks will close an hour earlier when clocks move to Standard Time, roughly from early November until mid-March.

Parks Director Doug Eastwood told the council that the city’s parks commission recommended the change, in part, because of problems in the park after dark.

“What we’ve been noticing is increased vandalism,” Eastwood said. “It’s been steadily going up, year after year.”

The vote directs staff to write park curfew rules. Final wording will be considered by the council in the fall, City Attorney Mike Gridley said. He said the ordinance likely will be written to make violating park hours a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

In Spokane, parks are closed between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. during Daylight Savings Time and 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. during standard time. The only exception is Riverfront Park, which has a midnight closing time year-round.

Coeur d’Alene officials said officers won’t be heavy-handed in enforcement. Instead, they argued the rules would give police authority to ask people to leave parks who might be causing problems – even if officers haven’t caught them committing vandalism or other crimes.

“We’re seeing a lot of call volume at all of our parks,” Coeur d’Alene police Capt. Steve Childers said. “If you limit the hours, it just gives us one more avenue.”

But Councilman Ron Edinger, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, said the measure would create a rule the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce. He added that he could support hours for smaller, neighborhood parks, but not for community gathering spots like Tubbs Hill.

“Our public parks should be left open,” Edinger said. “Are we going to have a police state?”

Councilman Al Hassell said he trusts the police to use discretion with the rules, and officials say the final ordinance will exempt people walking through parks headed to another destination. Someone walking through a park is “different, say, than a gang of people coming over here from Spokane” causing trouble, Hassell said.

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