HEMET — The City of Hemet features nine City Parks; including Gibbel, Mary Henley, Simpson, Cawston Community, Weston, Dave Oltman, Spencer, Brubaker and Griffith Way Community Park. A number of other community, regional and county maintained parks can also be enjoyed in and around the city.
Unfortunately, some of those parks have become more well known as places where homeless individuals spend the day milling about, aggressive panhandlers continuously ask for money, gang members and others get into fights and drug dealers and users far outnumber parents and children looking to enjoy a few hours of fun.
“Taking back” Weston Park, one picnic lunch at a time
One such park, Hemet’s Weston Park, has long been known as a place best avoided by families and the park has gained a reputation as being over-run by those looking to use the park as a daily crash-pad rather than a fun place where families can enjoy all the park has to offer.
In the past, the park has become so over-run and un-manageable, the city has taken the extraordinary step of fencing in and closing the entire four acres for prolonged periods.
Recently though, citizens have begun to notice an interesting sight as City of Hemet police officers assigned to the Department’s Crime Suppression Team have started conducting regular, high-visibility patrol in the form of enjoying their lunches – picnic style – at the park.
With their patrol vehicles parked along the side of the park, the officers make quite a sight as they are eating their lunches and enjoying the park’s large grassy areas, picnic tables and many shade trees.
Interestingly, once the officers arrive with their lunches, the park tends to quickly clear of all those except families, who have been seen waving and smiling at the officers, reassured by their presence. Some park visitors have even taken the time to approach the officers and thank them for their choice to eat at the park.
Hemet resident Sharon Rommel praised the efforts of the Crime Suppression Team and their decision to provide extra patrol at the park, saying, “I love it. Whoever thought of that is genius.”
“Anything our officers do to show their presence and get the riff-raff to take a hike from the park is okay in my book,” Rommell explained.
“They are doing the best they can with their limited resources and I think eating their lunch at the park is a great way of killing two birds with one stone,” said Rommell. “When I saw them eating lunch at the park, so it can be better enjoyed by families, I could not have been happier.”
Another Hemet resident, Brook Chaisson Tinling responded to the officer’s presence at the park saying, “I’m glad they are utilizing the park on a nice day to enjoy their lunch.”
“Tax payers pay for that park but no one can ever use it because of the consistent issues,” Tinling continued. “If I could leave my office for lunch I would join them as well.”
“Thank you Hemet PD for your hard work.”
Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown praised the Crime Suppression Team officers while discussing their ongoing efforts to essentially “take back” the City’s parks and make them safer for the families and children that want to enjoy them.
“I think this is a great example of Hemet police officers taking ownership of their community and setting an example,” said Brown.
“This park belongs to the people,” Brown continued. “Seeing police officers having lunch in the park sends the right message.”
Crime Suppression Team officers
“taking ownership of their community and setting an example.”
Hemet PD’s Crime Suppression Team officers are tasked with addressing a multitude of crime and quality of life issues and these officers use non-traditional patrol techniques in identifying and deterring the criminal activities.
The team consists of officers who were hand-picked based on their training, experience, dedication to the community and willingness to think outside the box.
These highly motivated officers help set the example and serve as role models for other officers. They have demonstrated to their peers and supervisors a willingness to use community-based policing as a means to better understand the specific needs of residents and they work hard to foster better relationships with those they serve and protect on a daily basis.
Working hand-in-hand with the Department’s Patrol and Investigations Bureau’s as well as their Gang Task Force and other special operations, they develop programs to help identify high-crime and problem areas as well as those involved in suspicious or criminal activities.
The officers use a very proactive approach when it comes to both preventing crime before it has been committed while addressing the criminal element and unwanted behavior that is already happening.
Whether it be targeted, high-visibility patrol at parks, businesses or other areas where citizens and officials have identified crime trends or other quality of life issues, these officers investigate the problem and work cooperatively with citizens and business owners as well as City and County agencies to come up with potential solutions.
Additionally, they search for and apprehend wanted individuals and provide other services directly related to crime prevention.
All of this ultimately results in an improved quality of life for citizens, visitors and those wanting to enjoy all that the City has to offer.
“Stop by and say hi!”
In spite of the demanding nature of being assigned to the City’s Crime Suppression Team, officers chosen to be part of the team consider the assignment to be a huge honor and privilege that they take very seriously.
“These officers truly care about the community they serve and it’s going to make a huge impact having them out there focusing on the areas that need their attention,” Brown explained. “The cool thing is that no one ‘told’ them to do it. They decided on their own that this was a good idea and they did it.”
Hemet PD has encouraged anyone in the area who spots the officers eating their lunches at the park to “stop by and say hi!”
Weston park covers a city block, north of E. Florida Avenue and south of E Latham Avenue, between N. Thompson and N. Taylor Streets.
The four acre park features a large children’s play area, numerous picnic tables and benches, many shade trees, shuffleboard courts, a basketball court and large grassy areas. The Hemet Municipal Shuffleboard Club sits at the northeast corner of the park.
There is ample curbside parking, as well as handicap parking towards the northeast end of the park along N. Taylor Street.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to dusk, six days a week. It is closed every Monday for maintenance.