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Criminal concerns at park upset Santa Barbara Councilman

Upset at dangers he says have existed for months at Ortega Park, Santa Barbara Councilman Jason Dominguez has unleashed a directed message to bring safety to the site immediately.

“We’ve actually created an environment that is a nuisance for the people living across the street and it is a criminal nuisance,” Dominguez said based on problems that have been documented to incidents earlier this year. He says the city has exceeded the “thresh hold” of problems for the city block where the issues have been raised by sports teams, parents, and neighbors.

Nearby residents “live in fear for their lives on a daily basis,” Dominguez said. Because the problem has not been resolved he urged the city to “double down” on its efforts.

His passionate speech, with moments of border-line anger, during the last city meeting was heard “loud and clear” but no formal action can be taken unless the matter is officially on the city agenda.

It’s possible the discussion will come up again soon.

A meeting with city leaders, and residents is scheduled for later this month.

Dominguez brought up the issue during a discussion over park improvements and signage city wide, but the specific discussion was not on the agenda. That brought it to a halt until it could be clearly posted and follow the process for public notification.

The park remains open for the public and those who are gathering without causing problems, Dominguez says, are welcomed.

Stanley Walker is a common visitor to the park and says, “some guys come play cards on a daily basis.” When asked if it’s card playing or gambling he said, “Maybe gambling but they play cards.”

Dominguez says the complaints are not imaginary. He read a letter from a coach who said an outfielder was afraid because of stumbling intoxicated men in the area. “Our kids do not want to go to the first base dugout, because of the groups of people smoking, drinking, gambling yelling and swearing right up to the the dugout fence.”

Some girls leaving nearby Santa Barbara Junior High said they have seen many of the issues the city leaders were told of. Jaiani Hammons, says she often sees, “homeless people drinking or passed out or drunk.”

One girl said she was warned to walk the other way and head to the Boys and Girls Club only, after she left school. “My parents told me not to go to Ortega Park or anywhere around there,” said Angelina Espinoza.

Grace Kim has used the bathroom and was scared by the others inside. “I’ve gone in there and there are drug addicts in there. They are always there.”

One student wanted the homeless relocated so they can have the park back, “and take the homeless somewhere else safe,” said Ashley Sanchez.

Later this month a community meeting will take place to work out the quickest solutions.

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