Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (representing Hollywood) presented a motion to the council asking the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance which would restrict playgrounds to children and the adults who accompanied them to the park.
“As city leaders, we owe this to families, to create safe spaces for their children at city play areas,” O’ Farrell said. “Other municipalities have adopted similar laws to enhance child safety and provide law enforcement with clear regulations as to who may be present in a playground. Our park facilities should be a safe haven, and we must do our part to provide the proper shelter for our kids.”
There are so many issues with this “proposal” that it’s difficult to know where to begin. In fact, the policy can’t be properly shredded because there isn’t an actual policy proposal yet beyond what O’Farrell said at the City Council meeting. Neither his website nor his Facebook page contain specifics, but the LA Times editorial board apparently spoke to his office about the councilman’s idea. In an editorial, they write:
O’Farrell said he was inspired to propose the ban after residents in Hollywood complained that their local park had been taken over by drug dealers. That is real problem, and by all means, the city should crack down on illegal activity in playgrounds. 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.
It’s not often that I agree with an LA Times editorial, but when I do it’s usually on civil rights issues. They correctly point out that there are already laws on the books dealing with the problems O’Farrell cites. If those aren’t enforced, what good will an additional – highly discriminatory and unconstitutional – ordinance do? Absolutely none, except give cover for officers or citizens to harass people they don’t think “fit in” the neighborhood.
As the Times also points out, park areas in O’Farrell’s district are rare and many of them are “pocket parks” with limited space. Are certain people prohibited from enjoying this taxpayer-funded open space – even sitting on a park bench and reading a book during their lunch break – simply because they don’t have a child with them? And is it okay if they’re a parent but just don’t have a child with them at the moment? Does that mean they’re not a drug dealer or a predator?
I’d like to see him produce a single bit of statistical evidence that you can link a person’s parental status with an incidence of drug dealing or child sex abuse. And even if such evidence existed, is it then okay to take away the fundamental rights of an entire class of people because a small percentage of them might commit a certain type of crime?
How does O’Farrell propose enforcing this ordinance? Is it a good idea to divert law enforcement from, I don’t know, protecting citizens from actual crime to enforce this law? Oh, right, he said that it’s because of drug dealers, or possible sexual predators who might be at these parks. Is he saying that right now, when citizens call the police about suspicious activity in a park, they are ignored? Because that doesn’t sound like a problem that an additional law will solve.