Citizens at the February 18 La Mesa Town Hall meeting at Northmont Elementary School told the city council that they were concerned about crime, particularly drug use, at nearby Northmont Park. The meeting, held in the northeast section of the city, attracted about 70 people.
Three of the six people who spoke about safety concerns referred to drug use in the 5.05-acre park located at the corner of Amaya and Severin drives. Several speakers recommended solutions, ranging from camera surveillance in the park to a "small sales-tax increase" in order to hire more police officers.
One neighbor said there was drug use in the park "any time of day, along with kids selling drugs. Put a camera in the park." He suggested using a grant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to buy the camera.
Angela Harbin, a retired police officer, also referred to drug deals in the park.
A speaker who identified herself as Jeanie said she had lived in the area for three years and called streets such as Horton Drive "Horton Snortin' and Meth Alley. I've complained repeatedly."
On a Sunday at 11 a.m., Jeanie said she saw a parent with three teens in the park "smoking away. There was a bong sitting on a table. I can't have my granddaughter over; my son found out about my street. I'd really like to have some help on my street."
Jeanie also spoke about traffic concerns. She said she tried talking to a police officer but the officer was "more concerned about my dog.” She said the officer told her not to walk at night.
Police chief Ed Aceves said, "I live in this neighborhood. If you see something, call. I have five officers working Sundays."
Thomas said people appeared to time crimes so they could steal items such as cell phones and "jump on the trolley" at the Amaya Drive station.
He said voters approved a bond to build new police and fire department buildings. Thomas said he was "willing to pay a small sales-tax increase of one-quarter to one-half percent” to add more police officers.
"They already raised our sales tax," a woman in the audience said. "I shop in Santee."
In 2008, La Mesa voters approved a three-quarter percent sales-tax increase, raising the tax to 8.5 percent; it rose to 8.75 percent when a statewide increase of one-quarter percent was approved in 2013.
Thomas referred to other budget items and said, "Let the grass die. We need more police."
Alex said he watched the TV series ChiPs, which had information about Neighborhood Watch. He suggested that "the woman with the big dog" go to the park to possibly scare away drug users.
City manager David Witt said, "Neighborhood Watch is not a replacement [for law enforcement], but it is very important." He asked people with concerns to provide contact information and recommended working with the city's prevention unit.