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By Marie Puleo
The City recently expanded its park ranger program by hiring five new full-time park rangers and giving them, as well as the three part-time rangers who were already in the program, the authority to issue civil citations for 24 prohibited activities at municipal parks, recreational facilities and public beaches, which will increase their ability to keep these locations safe and orderly.
The City Commission adopted an ordinance on Oct. 9 that defines the new duties and authority of the park rangers, and enumerates the prohibited activities for which they can issue civil citations.
The original ordinance portrayed prohibited acts as criminal offenses that could only be enforced by law enforcement. The new ordinance changed a number of prohibited acts to civil offenses enforceable by park rangers.
The park rangers are being trained by an instructor from the Florida Institute of Government in legal and ethical issues, civil citations and city ordinances, human behavior, diversity and culture, managing conflict and stress, and empowered leaders. They will also attend an unarmed security training program.
The rangers are expected to complete their training and become certified to issue civil citations in the early part of 2019, according to Recreation Programs Administrator Mark Beaudreau.
In the beginning, park rangers will give a courtesy warning, instead of issuing a citation right away. There is no arrest in a civil citation. Civil citations are different from criminal citations, which are issued by the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO).
The intent is for park rangers to educate the public and deter certain activities through compliance, therefore, the last resort is to cite someone, Beaudreau told the City Commission.
The park ranger program “is not intended to inflict pain by issuing citations,” said Beaudreau.
Fines for the civil citations will be $100 for the first offense; $150 for the second offense; and $250 for each additional offense.
If a person fails to pay the civil penalty within the time allowed, the City will file it in court. The person will then receive a notice from the clerk of court to appear for arraignment. If the person fails to appear in court to contest the citation, he or she will be served with a “rule to show cause” by law enforcement, which is an order by the court to appear and show why the particular relief sought should be granted.
The park rangers will be working closely with the BSO homeless task force and the BSO CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) program, said Beaudreau. The BSO homeless task force and BSO CPTED provide training to the park rangers during their orientation, and meet with them quarterly.
Last year, Pompano Beach park rangers patrolled and checked on city parks a total of 11,151 times, and drove 32,698 miles patrolling throughout the city, said Beaudreau. They also checked on 360 pavilion applicants to ensure customer safety and satisfaction, attended public events, made contact with park patrons 20,331 times and enforced park ordinances 603 times.
The park rangers patrol in City vehicles marked as “ranger” and with vehicle patrol lighting. Their schedules are Mon-Fri, 12pm to 11pm, and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 8am to 11pm. There’s a deployment specifically at the beach from 11am to 4pm on weekends and holidays. There’s also a special vandalism watch from 5pm to 11pm on weekends and holidays at Avondale Park, Apollo Park, Weaver Park, Hunters Manor Park, Mitchell Moore Park and Community Park, where park rangers have encountered graffiti on City property and broken equipment.
The rangers will be frequenting areas considered “hot spots,” which are the beach, Community Park, McNab Park, Founders Park, Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby Park and Kester Park, because they are heavily used year-round and have been identified as having increased ordinance violations, such as setting up bounce houses or other inflatables, vandalism, staying past park hours, camping and open containers.
Although the new ordinance provides park rangers with the authority to issue parking citations, they will not be deployed in that capacity unless the City determines in the future that it is needed. The rangers would be required to take a special training course in order to perform that task.
The cost to run the upgraded park ranger program will be approximately $350,000 per year, most of which covers the personnel cost for all eight rangers.
“This is an exciting time in the life of the ranger program,” said Beaudreau.
Included among the more than two dozen violations that are grounds for a civil citation are:
- skateboarding, rollerblading, roller skating, operating a Segway, hover board or bicycle on the east sidewalk of Pompano Beach Boulevard
- loitering in or around any restroom, dressing room or bathhouse
- building or maintaining a fire, or utilizing any cooking device or equipment containing fuel except in locations permitted by the City
- building a fire against or adjacent to any park building or structure
- building or maintaining a fire on a municipal beach, except in areas designated for that purpose
- climbing any tree, or walking, standing or sitting upon monuments, vases, fountains or other public property
- damaging or removing plants or plant material
- using nicotine vaporizers within city parks, recreational or cultural facilities
- bringing onto any recreational facility or the public beach any type of container made of glass for any purpose
- engaging in or playing rough or potentially dangerous games or practice
- throwing, placing, depositing, sweeping or scattering any paper, food, trash, fruit peeling or other refuse on a municipal beach or any other municipal recreational facility
- picnicking or consuming food upon a municipal recreational facility except in approved areas
- taking, carrying, leading or permitting dogs or other pets to come on any recreational facilities, including the east side of Pompano Beach Boulevard
- setting up or operating generators or playing amplified music
- willfully marking, defacing, disfiguring, damaging or removing any tables, benches, outlets, public utilities or parts thereof at any park or recreational facility
- possessing, setting up or using bounce houses, pools or other similar inflatable devices for other activities
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