September 16, 2007
It's not always a walk in the park for police patrolling Lee Park, near the Downtown Mall.
Charlottesville Police have seen an increase in the number of police reports at Lee Park. They hope changing the hours you're allowed in may help keep the area safer.
"We were responding to a number of calls for service there, mostly disorders and people being drunk and trying to live in the park," said Lt. Gary Pleasants of the Charlottesville Police Department.
Lt. Pleasants says they answered over 80 calls in Lee Park in just 60 days.
"That is a lot for a one square block city park in Charlottesville and we knew we had to make some changes. We had to do something to eliminate this," said Lt. Pleasants.
Right now, Lee Park is closed from 11 pm until 6 am, but those hours may change. The city may change the hours so the parks in the area close at 9.
"Particularly before the winter time when it gets dark earlier we wanted to impose these adjustments so that people did have a safer time going through Lee Park, and the folks who live around Lee Park don't have as much to deal with," said spokesperson Ric Barrick.
Barrick says changing closing time will allow police to have more jurisdiction over the parks during those hours.
"What we're attempting to do on Monday is part of larger effort to make safety in Lee Park a priority," said Barrick.
Anyone in the park while it's closed can be arrested on the spot for trespassing.
"Most people who want to use the park for normal activities are not going to be there past 9 at night anyway, so we don't see this to be a problem," said Barrick.
Charlottesville City Council has a meeting on Monday and Lt. Pleasants hopes city council agrees Monday. If they approve the agenda as written, it will change the park's hours to close at 9. The change would go into effect once new signs are up.
The city also wants to increase lighting and police presence in the park.