December 29, 2016   |   Carey Wedler
As local outlet KTLA reports:
“If you are in a playground without a child and you’re not a guardian, you’re not allowed there.”
This proposed ban, introduced by L.A. city council member Mitch O’Farrell, would apply to individuals who go to the park to exercise. KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci, who filmed her story at a local park, motions to a man exercising near the edge the playground, explaining that “according to this new motion, that would not be allowed because he is not with any kids.”
Pascucci describes the details of the proposed policy:
“How is a playground area defined? Play areas and city parks are delineated by a perimeter, whether it’s sand, shrubs, a gate or a fence, and these areas would be clearly marked with signage stating the limited access — and you could be ticketed if you’re within that area.”
O’Farrell claims his motion is intended to address complaints from his Hollywood constituents that individuals are selling drugs in public parks, which endangers children.
The ban is rooted in precedents set by other major cities, including New York, where “police caused a minor uproar several years ago by ticketing people for sitting on playground-adjacent benches to eat donuts or play chess,” a Los Angeles Times op-ed on O’Farrell’s proposition notes.
Even as the Times acknowledges that measures must be taken to deal with illicit activity, the Editorial Board argues:
“But if drug dealing or vandalism is occurring at a site, then have police or park rangers patrol it regularly. If there is a childless adult hanging around, leering at kids or taking photographs, then enforce the state law that already makes it a criminal offense to loiter at a playground or school with an unlawful purpose.”
Indeed, loitering laws are already in place to prevent illegal activity around children, making it unclear how additional rules will bolster security.
L.A. residents at the park where KTLA reported the story rejected the new proposed regulations. Michael Paris, a single man, said:
“I don’t have kids yet…for the time being, I have my dog only. So if you’re going to kick me out of the park close to a playground, that to me is not fair.”
Another resident, Danielle Carrig, commented on the difficulty of enforcing a rule like O’Farrell’s. “Who’s gonna come by and look at adults over by the park and say, ‘Do you have children? And if you don’t you can’t be here,’” she wondered.
“I think we just have to be a better neighborhood and a better community together.”
Another local also advocated solutions within the neighborhood. “The point for me would be making the community more vigilant,” Patsy Cox observed.
KTLA reported that they couldn’t find anyone at the park who supported the motion, though others tweeted messages of support. One argued that because adults have segregated spaces where children do not belong, like offices and bars, children should also have designated areas. Another supported the ban but said security cameras would likely work better while still another fully supported it, claiming adults without children have no right to be near her own kids.
O’Farrell issued a statement after proposing the new motion, asserting his goal is to ensure safety:
“As city leaders, we owe this to families to create safe spaces for their children at city play areas. Our park facilities should be a safe haven, and we must do our part to provide proper shelter for our kids.”
His proposed motion must go through several steps of approval before it becomes official policy.
Though O’Farrell may be well-intentioned, doubts remain as to how increased government regulation will solve problems already addressed by government regulation. This is a particularly troublesome problem considering the new motion makes sweeping presumptions about private citizens. As the Times op-ed reasons:
“O’Farrell argues that we can’t assume every adult who wanders into a children’s play area is benign. But why should the city assume that every adult without a child is a pedophile? That makes a childless adult a criminal just for being in a particular public space, which is an overreach that can lead to foolish enforcement — like ticketing people for sitting on a bench eating donuts.”
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