Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Costs doom Clearwater park's police patrols

JoAnna Siskin hoped a patrol program she asked for would curb crime in Clearwater’s Crest Lake Park. Instead, an alternate pilot program is ending this week because it costs too much. Occasional patrols will visit the park.


JoAnna Siskin hoped a patrol program she asked for would curb crime in Clearwater’s Crest Lake Park. Instead, an alternate pilot program is ending this week because it costs too much. Occasional patrols will visit the park.

CLEARWATER — Every morning JoAnna Siskin walks her dog Lulu, a border collie and Lab mix, in Crest Lake Park.

And virtually every morning, she says, she sees something that makes her cringe: vagrants, prostitution, drug use.

So after 17 years living in Skycrest, a neighborhood that includes the park, she asked the City Council last year to start a police park patrol.

Officials, recognizing that the city didn't have the money budgeted for a patrol, agreed instead to create a six-month pilot program.

The Police Department used overtime money to pay an officer to patrol 23 parks randomly and several nearby hot spots for four hours a day.

But during Monday's City Council work session, officials said they will end the program because at about $1,400 a week — or $74,672 a year — it costs too much.

In the program's first five months, officers on the park patrol made 32 arrests on mostly minor charges, enforced 28 traffic infractions and wrote 125 incident reports.

Volunteers working with police could be just as effective, officials said.

"Pull the plug?" Mayor Frank Hibbard asked fellow council members Monday.

They agreed. Its last day is Thursday.

Siskin, 54, said she understands but is disappointed. She hopes the city can do something about Crest Lake Park's problems, which she said have spread, with the homeless sleeping on her neighbors' doorsteps at night.

"I think if they could have done it the way we proposed, then it would have been really, really successful and a good thing," she said.

But, because the city used a rotating shift of officers and not a team, "there wasn't any continuity," said Shelley Kuroghlian, who frequently visits Crest Lake Park and is a member of the Clearwater Neighborhood Coalition, which represents about 40 neighborhoods.

"If you had the same officers in the parks and they came in one day and saw someone — they'd know that the person had been a problem for three weeks," said Kuroghlian, 60. "But with (rotating) officers, they're not going to necessarily recognize the person.

"They did make some arrests, but I don't think they were able to get good information," she said.

The program began Dec. 1 with advertisements and some media coverage. But, police Chief Sid Klein said, the publicity didn't work and "almost all" the police activity "was self-initiated by the assigned officers."

Of the 32 arrests, only two were felonies, both for possession of cocaine. The majority were for city violations, like possessing an open container of alcohol in public.

During the initial five months, officers worked 152 four-hour shifts. The officers were paid overtime, so regular shifts weren't affected.

In a city summary of the program, officials concluded "it is no longer prudent" to continue the program because of budget constraints.

The Police Department proposes to have on-duty officers patrol parks "as time and resources allow, supplemented by AmeriCorps members and volunteers," according to the summary.

Volunteers could lend a hand, and the department "could still provide the services" needed, Klein said.

Mike Donila can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

Costs doom Clearwater park's police patrols 06/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.
  2. Rick Kriseman's administration lashed in St. Pete sewage report


    ST. PETERSBURG — A state report places much of the blame for the city's 200-million gallon sewage spill crisis on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage from the city's overwhelmed sewer system. St. Petersburg dumped up to 200 million gallons of sewage over 13 months from 2015-16. A new state report blames much of the crisis on mistakes made by the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman, but also critcizes past administrations. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Somalis in Minneapolis on defensive after police shooting


    MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau resigned Friday at the request of the mayor, who said she lost confidence in the chief following last week's shooting death of an unarmed Australian woman by a police officer.

    Justine Damond
  4. Pasco burglars attempt -- sort of -- jewelry store heist (w/video)


    LUTZ — The Pasco County Sheriff's Office released surveillance video Friday of three men trying — and failing — to rob a jewelry store in broad daylight.

  5. State Dept.: U.S. to block Americans from traveling to North Korea


    The Trump administration plans to prohibit Americans from traveling to North Korea, the State Department announced Friday, citing serious risks of arrest and imprisonment in the isolated totalitarian state.

    Student Otto Warmbier, 22, died June 19 after being released from North Korea in a coma.