Park in Whittier now under curfew after concerns for public safety

As of Wednesday night, Leffingwell Ranch Park is now closed overnight from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. following a rash of homeless crimes.

And at parks across Whittier, city council has enacted a “no-tent” rule during the day that goes into effect Thursday morning.

During the past month, Leffingwell Ranch Park has had several assaults involving the homeless, including one that put next-door Leffington Elementary School on lockdown, a fire in a homeless encampment at the park and most recently, Leffingwell Principal Dr. Scott Blackwell was attacked when he tried to stop a man from urinating in the elementary school parking lot. Police arrested the assailant for misdemeanor assault.

It’s the same story for parks around Whittier, like Parnell just down the street, described as extremely dangerous and volatile.

“We’ve had fights, we find needles in the park consistently, bottles of urine, fecal matter,” said Resident Paul Ramirez, dedicated to helping combat the homeless problem in Whittier. “Homes around the perimeter of this park have fecal matter on their fences and walls, there are break-ins, stolen bicycles. It’s not a safe place to be, especially at night.”

Whittier City Council passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday night to implement a “no tent” rule at every park in Whittier between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless it’s raining or below 50-degrees. The homeless are still able to camp there overnight. They also voted to impose a curfew specifically at Leffingwell Ranch Park from 10 p.m to 6 a.m.

Both new restrictions are effective immediately.

Officers are restrained on how they can handle the homeless after an appellate ruling in Boise last year, giving homeless people the right to sleep out in public. Leffingwell Ranch Park is an exception because of the heightened recent criminal activity.

Ramirez says the solution is rehabilitation but says that less than 5% of the homeless will accept it. “There’s a wide difference between those who are truly homeless and the drug-addicted criminal vagrants who are right behind us in this park.”

Whittier City Council is considering hiring a firm to do a homeless count and helping the city find a way to provide beds to those who need it. The problem, Ramirez says, is getting people to go to the shelters that have strict rules against drugs and inappropriate behavior.