The Ocean Beach Town Council introduced new Western Division police captain David Rohowits at their packed April 23 meeting along with interim District 2 councilman Ed Harris. Harris is completing the eight months left in the council-seat term for Kevin Faluconer, who left office early to take over for ousted mayor Bob Filner.
Locals showed up in droves to let the new captain know how they feel about the gangs of “traveler” kids taking over their town.
According to surf instructor John Murphy, “They are sleeping in the pier parking lot and then they wake up and start dealing drugs and smoking pot and hanging out on the sea wall at the foot of Newport Avenue. We need cameras and lighting around the pier."
Dave Martin, owner of Shades Restaurant, complained that he was "tired of watching them defecating in front yards, and they can just come to O.B. and eat here for free.” He was referring to the many churches and organizations that feed and attract the homeless to O.B. "I'd rather give the cops roast-beef sandwiches!"
Craig Gerwig, one of the owners of the Newport Antique Center, said, “The problem is the churches feed them so they know they can come here and get that for free. Let's have a feeding for the cops!"
Shane Bass, father of a 15-year-old surfing daughter, says he "sees the travelers and trolls smoking pot out in the open as she walks down to the ocean," and he worries about her.
Captain Rohowits tried to defuse the tension with some well-received humor and promised to address the "undesirables on the wall." He said, "We are aggressively hiring new officers." He explained that not having enough officers to cover the O.B. sector is to blame and they're trying to rectify that.
Lieutenant Natalie Stone said, “They are losing 130 police officers to either retirement or just going where there is better pay, like to the sheriff's office. We need 15 new officers to be able to handle O.B. As it is, when we arrest someone like we just did today for lighting up a bong on the cliffs, it takes those two officers out of O.B. for one and a half hours to go process him. We spend more time in O.B. than any other division."
Noah Tafolla, a native O.B. resident and host of the cable TV show Wonderland, said, "We don't see a vagrant problem in La Jolla or Coronado. We need an organized neighbor presence."
Ed Harris said as a longtime lifeguard lieutenant in O.B. and La Jolla, he has "seen and heard a lot of horror stories in the Ocean Beach area."
“O.B. is bookended with really young and really old people; it's a unique environment." He said he would rather "Feed the cops, not the homeless!," a comment that drew a lot of laughter from the audience.
He also mentioned that the oversized-vehicle ordinance is not being enforced enough; passed last year, the ordinance states that no RV/oversized vehicle is allowed to park overnight on city streets without a permit. Harris said, "We need to find money for targeted overtime police to enforce this. The new captain has hired six people to do just this."
Julie Klein, an O.B. business owner, said, “They should just close all the parking lots overnight." Several audience members liked that idea.
The captain said, “O.B. is at the end of the 8 freeway, and when you have nowhere to live, the beach is where many want to be."