Palm Beach County wants to increase park patrol during closed hours and bolster patrol during high-volume weekends.
Lake Worth’s John Price Park is a sprawling 726 acres. It is also a haven for approximately 30 homeless individuals each night. Park officials will not remove those who have no other place to go and choose to sleep overnight in or around the pavilions.
The extra dollars would be used to hire off-duty officers to police John Prince Park and others in Palm Beach County. Officials say they are attempting to thwart criminal activity such as vandalism, drug activity, and in those areas.
New patrols would focus on nighttime hours and holiday weekends.
Parks Director Eric Call said extra patrols are needed at Ocean Inlet Park near Boynton Beach, Lake Ida Park in Delray Beach and some county parks in Jupiter and Juno Beach.
Commissioner Dave Kerner stated he asked for the added money because of issues regarding individuals using the bathroom in public at John Prince Park, hanging up laundry and leaving garbage. He expressed that the need for the extra funds is to aid in the protection of visitors.
A review of police records revealed law enforcement responded to calls involving thefts, car breaks-in, suspicious persons, open alcoholic containers, fights, and suicide attempts in the last year.
Currently, the county has 24 park rangers, but they do not have the authority to arrest people or issue citations, Call said. Deputies also drive through the parks occasionally while on patrol.
Palm Beach County would need to allocate the $125,000 from their operating budget in order to employ the new patrol.