Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Police Focus on Homeless in L.R. Park

Arlington Police have picked up efforts in recent weeks to stop homeless people from sleeping in Lubber Run Park. Police at the park said they had made arrests, but no numbers were available from the public information office. Because of inquiries for this story, outreach workers for the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network will be patrolling the park, as well, to offer the men another place to sleep.

Police officers Lutz (left) and Joy patrolled Lubber Run Park very early Sept. 26, looking for homeless men sleeping in the park. (Click to enlarge the image.)

The men have largely been sleeping under the protection of the pavilion near N. George Mason Drive. They can be found on some mornings sleeping on the table tops or picnic benches, with backpacks or bedrolls nearby. Some women walking in or near the park early in the morning have expressed worry about having the men there.

On Friday Sept. 26, Arlington Police officer J. Joy said that he had been in the park to check for homeless men, looking around the amphitheatre, especially under the deck and stairs at the back of the structure. He found no one there, he said, but he found one person in the pavilion.

“We are trying to take care of this problem,” Ofr. Joy said. He, along with officer C. Lutz and others, was in the Lubber Run amphitheatre parking lot, stopping pedestrians (including this reporter) to see if people knew of other locations in the park to check.

According to the police, it is against county code for anyone, homeless or not, to be in the park after hours. Under the county’s “Park Safe” program, the first violation results in a warning, and the second violation bans the person from county parks, a violation he or she may appeal. Third violations can mean arrest for trespassing; that carries a court summons and a fine, generally.

“Only if they show no regard for the officer’s direction of leaving are they taken into a full custodial arrest,” wrote Det. Crystal Nosal in an email. She is the police public information officer.

Phone calls for this story were the first A-SPAN’s Leonard Chari had heard of the homeless men in Lubber Run Park.

In fact, Lubber Run is not even a park that his outreach workers normally patrol. He said nearby residents normally call him if they see homeless men in parks.

“If nobody complains…they go in when no one notices,” Mr. Chari said. “In this instance we haven’t gotten any information.” Mr. Chari is the director of A-SPAN’s Opportunity Place, a program that helps homeless people gain stable incomes and housing.

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