Milton Police Chief Greg Brand says a more concentrated police presence will soon be noticeable at the Milton Community Center - including the skate park area.
"In many respects, the community center is the face of Milton," he says, saying it will soon be common to see police at the community center in their patrol duties - he's even thinking about hiring an officer to assign to the community center. A directed patrol order is in effect now, meaning officers check out at the skate park on a regular basis and report what they are seeing there: how many people skating and helmets or no helmets. If skaters are not complying with the rules, it is addressed and logged.
Though it has been discussed that city officials might take a punitive measure of closing the park for a month at a time when skaters don't obey helmet rules, Brand says he has a different approach - one that hits home.
"There will come a time when we take the skateboards," he says. "It'll take $100 to get it back." Brand says it is the policy when skaters break city ordinances by skateboarding in areas openly posted against it. "With the city ordinances...skating in prohibited areas, we write a citation, impound the board and they pay $100 fee to get it back. I have already proposed to the city council that we make a similar ordinance for the skate park."
Brand points out obviously the skate park is meant for skateboarding, so the ordinance would be written so skaters at the park who are not wearing helmets will lose their boards until they pay the $100 fine.
"I want to see the local skaters obeying the rules, telling the outsiders to put on their helmets...it's your park. We didn't spend a quarter of a million dollars so you can come over here and bust your (heads). If there are no helmets being worn, insurance companies won't write insurance policies...guess what? If there is no insurance, there is no skate park. It's that simple.
"Skaters say they want to decide on their own (to wear helmets). You can decide on your own," Brand says. "You can decide whether you are going to skate here or not.
Brand says though the focus of late has been about the skate park, he is well aware that more people are going to be utilizing the community center with the new tennis courts coming in. While a special patrol has been in effect to keep an eye on the skate park, he says long before traffic picks up there, officers are going to be noticed.
"That is a top-notch tennis court going in," he says. "It's going to bring a lot of people to the park who have not been here before. We want no concerns about safety and the neighborhood. The lower level parking lot is going to become a lot more active. I'm not waiting until it's done, I want people to get accustomed to our presence here long before the tennis courts are completed. I'd like to hire a part-time officer, a youth services position. I have money for that, I'm still one man down."
Brand says in addition to creating an ordinance that would allow police to confiscate skateboards, he sees other places in the current rules where some changes need to be made. "When the rules were first written, we had never been in the skate park business," he notes. "The rules say now that if you aren't on a skateboard, you should not be inside the fence. I disagree. It should address those on the concrete, skateboarding. If a mother is here with a younger child to watch her teenager skateboard, I don't want to tell her she has to get out. But I also don't want bystanders on the concrete skate park."
Ultimately, the chief says it's about safety and providing a skate park for the kids. He suggested that once rules are followed on a regular basis, there might be future discussion about adding to the park.
"I don't want the police department to be an impound yard for skateboards, but sooner or later you have to do what you say you are going to do or it has no meaning. I'm not wanting to be the bad guy, but I am saying, 'here are the rules, just follow them'."