Community group gives residents tools to take back park

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

For several years, east Waterdown residents who own property backing onto Gatesbury Park have experienced more than the joyful noise of children and families enjoying the playground and sports fields.

During the summer months, once the soccer and baseball games fold up for the evening, the stretch of land that joins Boulding Avenue and Niska Drive draws teens and young adults who use the park to party into the wee hours of the morning, they allege. Drug paraphernalia, empty bottles, trash, and property damage are common reminders of their nocturnal activities, which don't cease with the advent of cold weather. Neighbours routinely report seeing groups of high school students huddled in cars in the parking lots during the daytime. Others have witnessed violence between youths and seen people operating motorized vehicles such as ATVs and snowmobiles on the fields.

"Everybody knows what the issues are," noted Karen Brown, co-ordinator of the citizen-driven Crime Activity Prevention (CAP) program, which recently wrapped up its first year with a meeting between concerned Gatesbury area residents and members of the Hamilton Police Service who patrol the park.

Brown added that the purpose of the meeting, held at the Flamborough Municipal Centre on a snowy Friday evening in early December and attended by some 25 residents, was to "come up with solutions."

Referring to a confrontation in late August between a couple of residents and youths in the park, some of the attendees at the meeting asked Youth Officer Frank Miscione to define their legal rights on park property.

"After 11 p.m., nobody should be in the park," noted Brown, adding that while the park rules are posted, signage could be improved.

When it comes to confronting youths in the park, Miscione advised residents not to take matters into their own hands and supplied them with the numbers for the Hamilton Police Service's SAFE project, which operates between June and September (905-546-3889) and the year-round dispatch number (905-546-4925, press 0).

Miscione also advised residents living on the west side of the park, behind a small gully, to invest in floodlights for their yards and high-powered flashlights which would take away the trespassers' sense of privacy when using the park illegally.

"If a simple floodlight is going to do the trick, that made sense to them," Brown said of the people at the meeting.

Miscione also used the meeting to gather information from people who live near the park.

"He wanted to know when (the youths) are there," explained Brown. "One resident said they're usually in the park between 10 and 11 p.m. on weeknights and on weekends between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. In the summer, it's from when it gets dark until two or three a.m."

Park activity, added Brown, usually comes to a peak in June, around the end of the school year.

Miscione was surprised to learn about the youths' daytime visits to Gatesbury, typically before school and at lunch time, and has indicated that he will arrange to have officers patrol at those times.

SAFE operates independently of the regular beat officers, to monitor 173 parks across the city of Hamilton with four officers slated for 73 shifts each over the three-month summer period. The wide distance and the fact that most of the incidents (vandalism, graffiti) are designated as low priority mean that the officers' response time is sometimes one or two hours, or more.

"Fights, violence, anything that jeopardizes public safety, are given top priority," said Brown.

When asked about intervening in such a situation, Miscione conceded that residents do have the right to make a "citizen's arrest," something that isn't always appreciated by beat officers. For example, one couple detained youths they believed were breaking park rules and waited until police arrived, only to be given a hard time by the officer who responded. Miscione pointed out that if an officer is giving out erroneous information, the HPS needs to know about it, and it will be taken to the Divisor chief, Dan Welch.

"These people are very frustrated, and they have a right to be," said Brown. "But overall, they were encouraged at the meeting."

In addition to receiving appropriate contact information and advice to upgrade their property lighting, residents were urged to take license plate numbers, carefully handle any found drug paraphernalia and drop it off at the Waterdown Policing Centre (163 Dundas Street East) and remove any graffiti immediately. Miscione also suggested launching a Gatesbury Community Association that meets regularly to discuss issues, and that residents make a point of touching base with their neighbours.

To facilitate communication, CAP has set up a Gatesbury bulletin board on its web site (www.infoflam.on.ca/cap), which allows neighbours to post messages and check what's going on in the area.

"It was a really positive meeting," concluded Brown. "It is their park; the responsibility should not be left on anybody else. (The residents) should take ownership of the park.

"It's not just there for the bad people."

Community group gives residents tools to take back park

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

For several years, east Waterdown residents who own property backing onto Gatesbury Park have experienced more than the joyful noise of children and families enjoying the playground and sports fields.

During the summer months, once the soccer and baseball games fold up for the evening, the stretch of land that joins Boulding Avenue and Niska Drive draws teens and young adults who use the park to party into the wee hours of the morning, they allege. Drug paraphernalia, empty bottles, trash, and property damage are common reminders of their nocturnal activities, which don't cease with the advent of cold weather. Neighbours routinely report seeing groups of high school students huddled in cars in the parking lots during the daytime. Others have witnessed violence between youths and seen people operating motorized vehicles such as ATVs and snowmobiles on the fields.

"Everybody knows what the issues are," noted Karen Brown, co-ordinator of the citizen-driven Crime Activity Prevention (CAP) program, which recently wrapped up its first year with a meeting between concerned Gatesbury area residents and members of the Hamilton Police Service who patrol the park.

Brown added that the purpose of the meeting, held at the Flamborough Municipal Centre on a snowy Friday evening in early December and attended by some 25 residents, was to "come up with solutions."

Referring to a confrontation in late August between a couple of residents and youths in the park, some of the attendees at the meeting asked Youth Officer Frank Miscione to define their legal rights on park property.

"After 11 p.m., nobody should be in the park," noted Brown, adding that while the park rules are posted, signage could be improved.

When it comes to confronting youths in the park, Miscione advised residents not to take matters into their own hands and supplied them with the numbers for the Hamilton Police Service's SAFE project, which operates between June and September (905-546-3889) and the year-round dispatch number (905-546-4925, press 0).

Miscione also advised residents living on the west side of the park, behind a small gully, to invest in floodlights for their yards and high-powered flashlights which would take away the trespassers' sense of privacy when using the park illegally.

"If a simple floodlight is going to do the trick, that made sense to them," Brown said of the people at the meeting.

Miscione also used the meeting to gather information from people who live near the park.

"He wanted to know when (the youths) are there," explained Brown. "One resident said they're usually in the park between 10 and 11 p.m. on weeknights and on weekends between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. In the summer, it's from when it gets dark until two or three a.m."

Park activity, added Brown, usually comes to a peak in June, around the end of the school year.

Miscione was surprised to learn about the youths' daytime visits to Gatesbury, typically before school and at lunch time, and has indicated that he will arrange to have officers patrol at those times.

SAFE operates independently of the regular beat officers, to monitor 173 parks across the city of Hamilton with four officers slated for 73 shifts each over the three-month summer period. The wide distance and the fact that most of the incidents (vandalism, graffiti) are designated as low priority mean that the officers' response time is sometimes one or two hours, or more.

"Fights, violence, anything that jeopardizes public safety, are given top priority," said Brown.

When asked about intervening in such a situation, Miscione conceded that residents do have the right to make a "citizen's arrest," something that isn't always appreciated by beat officers. For example, one couple detained youths they believed were breaking park rules and waited until police arrived, only to be given a hard time by the officer who responded. Miscione pointed out that if an officer is giving out erroneous information, the HPS needs to know about it, and it will be taken to the Divisor chief, Dan Welch.

"These people are very frustrated, and they have a right to be," said Brown. "But overall, they were encouraged at the meeting."

In addition to receiving appropriate contact information and advice to upgrade their property lighting, residents were urged to take license plate numbers, carefully handle any found drug paraphernalia and drop it off at the Waterdown Policing Centre (163 Dundas Street East) and remove any graffiti immediately. Miscione also suggested launching a Gatesbury Community Association that meets regularly to discuss issues, and that residents make a point of touching base with their neighbours.

To facilitate communication, CAP has set up a Gatesbury bulletin board on its web site (www.infoflam.on.ca/cap), which allows neighbours to post messages and check what's going on in the area.

"It was a really positive meeting," concluded Brown. "It is their park; the responsibility should not be left on anybody else. (The residents) should take ownership of the park.

"It's not just there for the bad people."

Community group gives residents tools to take back park

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

For several years, east Waterdown residents who own property backing onto Gatesbury Park have experienced more than the joyful noise of children and families enjoying the playground and sports fields.

During the summer months, once the soccer and baseball games fold up for the evening, the stretch of land that joins Boulding Avenue and Niska Drive draws teens and young adults who use the park to party into the wee hours of the morning, they allege. Drug paraphernalia, empty bottles, trash, and property damage are common reminders of their nocturnal activities, which don't cease with the advent of cold weather. Neighbours routinely report seeing groups of high school students huddled in cars in the parking lots during the daytime. Others have witnessed violence between youths and seen people operating motorized vehicles such as ATVs and snowmobiles on the fields.

"Everybody knows what the issues are," noted Karen Brown, co-ordinator of the citizen-driven Crime Activity Prevention (CAP) program, which recently wrapped up its first year with a meeting between concerned Gatesbury area residents and members of the Hamilton Police Service who patrol the park.

Brown added that the purpose of the meeting, held at the Flamborough Municipal Centre on a snowy Friday evening in early December and attended by some 25 residents, was to "come up with solutions."

Referring to a confrontation in late August between a couple of residents and youths in the park, some of the attendees at the meeting asked Youth Officer Frank Miscione to define their legal rights on park property.

"After 11 p.m., nobody should be in the park," noted Brown, adding that while the park rules are posted, signage could be improved.

When it comes to confronting youths in the park, Miscione advised residents not to take matters into their own hands and supplied them with the numbers for the Hamilton Police Service's SAFE project, which operates between June and September (905-546-3889) and the year-round dispatch number (905-546-4925, press 0).

Miscione also advised residents living on the west side of the park, behind a small gully, to invest in floodlights for their yards and high-powered flashlights which would take away the trespassers' sense of privacy when using the park illegally.

"If a simple floodlight is going to do the trick, that made sense to them," Brown said of the people at the meeting.

Miscione also used the meeting to gather information from people who live near the park.

"He wanted to know when (the youths) are there," explained Brown. "One resident said they're usually in the park between 10 and 11 p.m. on weeknights and on weekends between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. In the summer, it's from when it gets dark until two or three a.m."

Park activity, added Brown, usually comes to a peak in June, around the end of the school year.

Miscione was surprised to learn about the youths' daytime visits to Gatesbury, typically before school and at lunch time, and has indicated that he will arrange to have officers patrol at those times.

SAFE operates independently of the regular beat officers, to monitor 173 parks across the city of Hamilton with four officers slated for 73 shifts each over the three-month summer period. The wide distance and the fact that most of the incidents (vandalism, graffiti) are designated as low priority mean that the officers' response time is sometimes one or two hours, or more.

"Fights, violence, anything that jeopardizes public safety, are given top priority," said Brown.

When asked about intervening in such a situation, Miscione conceded that residents do have the right to make a "citizen's arrest," something that isn't always appreciated by beat officers. For example, one couple detained youths they believed were breaking park rules and waited until police arrived, only to be given a hard time by the officer who responded. Miscione pointed out that if an officer is giving out erroneous information, the HPS needs to know about it, and it will be taken to the Divisor chief, Dan Welch.

"These people are very frustrated, and they have a right to be," said Brown. "But overall, they were encouraged at the meeting."

In addition to receiving appropriate contact information and advice to upgrade their property lighting, residents were urged to take license plate numbers, carefully handle any found drug paraphernalia and drop it off at the Waterdown Policing Centre (163 Dundas Street East) and remove any graffiti immediately. Miscione also suggested launching a Gatesbury Community Association that meets regularly to discuss issues, and that residents make a point of touching base with their neighbours.

To facilitate communication, CAP has set up a Gatesbury bulletin board on its web site (www.infoflam.on.ca/cap), which allows neighbours to post messages and check what's going on in the area.

"It was a really positive meeting," concluded Brown. "It is their park; the responsibility should not be left on anybody else. (The residents) should take ownership of the park.

"It's not just there for the bad people."