The amount of crime in and around our downtown park has recently increased after a several year lull. A decade ago, increased gang activity made the park a threatening place to visit, particularly the end closest to the children’s play area; increased police attention helped matters considerably. Now, a new thuggish element has moved in the same area, with frequent drug deals, loose pit bulls and some amount of more violent crime, including a drive-by shooting and a robbery at knife point. While the level of activity is low compared to the problems seen in the bigger cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma, it is still too high.

Officer Dave Ginn of the Sebastopol Police Dept. spoke about the problems at a nieghborhood concerns meeting held at the Sebastopol Library and hosted by City Council member Kathleen Schaefer. He brought one of the Department’s newest weapons to the meeting — their drug-sniffing dog, Percy, who demonstrated her ability to locate  packets of methamphetamines and marijuana planted in the building. He has already used her in citing several of the people hanging out near the Vet’s Building and expects to do more, pending approval of his plan to make several visits a month at random times. He is currently on the night shift, so he hopes to change to a flexible schedule that will allow him to visit the park during the day — particularly between 1 and 4 pm, when most of the activity occurs.

Officer Ginn noted that driving away the activity from the park is not the same as making go entirely away. He thought the malingerers will most likely move to the West County Trail near the high school, but he vowed that he would follow them wherever they tried to do business. The police are also watching an area near the skate park (only a very short distance from the police station!) as well, but they are hampered by having too few officers available. That condition probably won’t change until the economic situation improves, but they are trying to adress problems as well as they can.

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