Report of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Advisory Council
By Lois Lane
At their recent meeting on August 4th, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Advisory Council welcomed Lt. Jason Weeden of the San Diego Police Department, on his first day as a Lieutenant. He will be replacing Lt. Natalie Stone in her Western Division duties, as she has moved to investigations.
Lt. Weeden, with a background on the SWAT team and the Vice Squad, seems very well equipped to take on whatever Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs Park have in store for him.
The topic for the evening was “Safety in the Park”, and Community Relations Officer David Surwilo was there to explain what was happening in the beach area, and how the community and the police can work more effectively together.
His message: “Report, report, report!”
Officer Surwilo told us, ‘don’t just complain that there people painting graffiti, people sleeping in their cars, people dealing drugs, etc., call it in, he said, to the general police number (619) 531-2000 with as much information as possible.
Surwilo told us, if, in fact, two hours go by and nobody shows up they will get there eventually, as they may be off investigating murders, stabbings and other 911 calls (not necessarily right here on the Peninsula). And when they do, the suspects will start to get the idea that this is not the best place to hang around.
When the Police see the number of service calls to an area, they actually do patrol that area more, Surwilo continued. Police “assets” are allocated where they are needed. So, if Western Division goes in to the Police Chief and asks for more officers in OB and Sunset Cliffs Park, and there have only been a few reported requests during that month, the response is likely to be less than enthusiastic.
Officer Surwilo also covered the co-operation among agencies. Police work with the Lifeguards, with graffiti control, with animal control, and Parks & Rec to encourage synergy within the City.
Because there was a recent gang-related stabbing in the area on July 27, many questions came up about gang members visiting our beaches.
The officer told us that police no longer “depend” on only “saggers”, “hoodies”, and white socks to identify suspected gang members. Some, Surwilo said, have taken to wearing designer duds like Armani and Prada at the beach, the current trend of the cartels. Gangs do not host gang wars here, but tend to stay on their own turf, he advised. And since the stabbing, extra gang sweeps separate from Division Patrol have augmented the Division Patrol forces.
Yes, there were statistics reported by the police at the meeting. Since May, Crime Mapping shows 20 crimes reported near Sunset Cliffs Park. Of these only two were robbery/violent crimes.
As reported by Officer Surwilo, people go to the Park to:
- do drugs,
- have sex,
- and walk their dogs off leash.
This rosy picture of the park contrasts with the Newport Avenue scene. Since January 2013, the Sunset Cliffs Park has had 820 crimes reported while the Newport Ave area reported 5100.
Nearby neighbor Judy McEntyre presented a list of incidents in the park during the month of July, some resulting in calls to the police and some resulting in interaction. During July, there was also a stabbing and a death from falling. Officer Surwila cautioned her and others to avoid personal confrontations.
The committee will address outstanding issues as part of a formal motion at the next meeting. Who should lock the gate at night, Parks & Rec or the Police? Who is responsible for dogs off leash? Why can’t the police get telephone/communication service in the park? More next time.
The meeting was adjourned by the Chair, Ann Swanson.
We all long for the day when watching the Sunset is the most important activity of the day at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.