June 22, 2006
Trespassing is a crime that is sometimes overlooked by law enforcement, but not here in Charlottesville. Officers are cracking down by starting with Tonsler Park. In May 2005, we showed you how, and here is an update.
"Last year, we did start on the project to make these woods safe, but keep it free of people for the time being," said Officer Garland Mills of the Charlottesville Police Department.
Doing so meant keeping trespassers out of Charlottesville's Tonsler Park after dark. The woods separate the park from the Blue Ridge Commons community. It is a community which police say has seen a lot of change.
"Over the past decade, this has been a famous site, for rapes, robberies, and murders," said Officer Mills.
Police say they haven't had many problems since putting the fence up in the summer of 2005, but did notice the fence was cut a couple weeks ago. Now, the year of warnings have gone, and the ticket process has arrived.
"We just want people to know that we're still enforcing this, this is still a no trespassing area, and if they come on there-- they will be issued a citation," added Officer Mills.
Some may think police are being too hard. Others say it's good for safety because several people are known to cut through the 18 acres of brush to get to the park, or even run from officers.
"We have children over here playing, and it keeps people from traveling back and forth. It's more controlled," said Harrice Timberlake, a counselor at Tonsler Park.
While Tonsler Park is an outlet for fun, it can also be a nightmare for adults watching over several kids.
"The kids are on the playground, out there in that area, and it's hard to keep an eye on all the children at the same time. With that fence up, it's an added safety," said Timberlake.
Charlottesville Police have kissed the warnings goodbye, so all violators will now get a ticket.
The ticket carries a misdemeanor charge, and requires the violator to pay a fine and face jail time.