Baristo Park sees return to normal following closure to address criminal activity

A combination of factors most likely helped, including cleaning the park, the closure of a nearby homeless services drop-in center, and increased security.

Six months after a temporary closure of Baristo Park allowed the city to address issues that had plagued the area for years, it may be time to declare the effort a success.

Driving the news:  The city closed the park off South Calle El Segundo in October 2021, proclaiming it “detrimental to the health and safety of the public.” It was reopened in January of this year after the installation of security cameras, a complete cleaning, and overseeding of the lawn.

  • The park had been a source of public outrage for years after ever-increasing reports of drug use among members of the homeless community who camp there.
     
  • Calls for police and fire service at the park had increased from 558 between 2017 and 2019 to more than 1,245 from 2019 to the time it was closed.

Bigger picture: Neighbors who celebrated the opening in January said the city’s efforts made it “100 percent better,” but they were still cautious that the unlawful activity would return. As recently as last week, however, families were spotted picnicking while children played basketball on the court.

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  • “The city kept to its word and policed the park so that local residents can safely enjoy it again,” said David Murphy of the Community Partnership on Homelessness, which had circulated a petition to close what had been nicknamed “Heroin Park.”

Behind the scenes: City Manager Justin Clifton said this week that there was no particular blueprint the city was following when it stepped in to address the situation. A combination of factors most likely helped, including cleaning the park, the closure of a nearby homeless services drop-in center, and increased security.

  • “We thought simply breaking the daily habit of congregating in that space might help,” Clifton said. “ … It was our hope that the combination of these tactics would cause kids and families to return to the park, which would also act as a further deterrent to some of the illegal activity that had taken place previously.”

Bottom line: “While we still have significant work to do around homelessness, I’m glad to see the park is once again a happy place for kids and families,” Clifton said.

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