Officials ponder park problems

Bellevue officials will take a long, hard look at problems with the behavior of juveniles in Bayne Park that could be affecting not only the public’s perception of the facility, but the patronage of the borough’s library as well.

Council member Lynn Tennant-Heffley cited examples of behavior problems at the park, including offensive language, underage drinking, littering, fights and drug use. The circulation at Bayne Library is down, she said at Tuesday’s pre-council meeting, as is attendance at some library programs.

Heffley said that she arrived at the park that day for a program in the gazebo, only to find that the gazebo had been “trashed.”

“There is a perception the park is not safe,” she said.

Council members agreed that many -- though not all -- of the problems were associated with the new skate plaza.

Police Chief Matt Sentner said that his officers made 130 patrols of Bayne Park during May and June, and that any arrests made have been for minor offenses. Some 44 youths have been permanently banned from the park, however, and will be arrested if they return, he said.

The chief agreed that part of the problem was perception, particularly when it comes to the skateboarders.

“They look like criminals” to adults, he noted.

Sentner told council that the police department could not provide any additional coverage of the park without bringing in officers on overtime. he suggested, however, that council authorize the police to shut down the skate plaza for several days when there are problems with behavior.

“I think that would send a message,” he said.

Council member Mark Helbling suggested putting up signs at the park telling people to call 9-1-1 if they observe criminal behavior. Mayor George Doscher disagreed that the signs would be helpful.

“Everybody’s crazy about signs,” Doscher said. “Nobody reads them. Nobody pays attention to them.”

The mayor suggested that the borough turn to the people who lobbied so heavily for construction of the skate plaza, and hold them accountable for encouraging proper behavior at the park.

“They assured us this wouldn’t happen,” Doscher said of the youths.

Sentner also suggested that security cameras be purchased during the third and final phase of the plaza construction.

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