Helping people enjoy life in exceptional parks and recreational facilities that are safe and secure is one of the highest priorities for Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners and team members.

Recently, the Park District has seen an alarming increase of after-hours usage of parks, which has resulted in injury, property damage, and most recently, two fatalities.

Large after-hours gatherings are happening after bars close but are not exclusive to select hot spots within the Rockford Park District. Large gatherings are also taking place in various public/private parking lots throughout the city.

At tonight’s Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners meeting, a presentation was given regarding current crime trends (see chart), and enhanced safety mitigation strategies were outlined.

“Rockford Park District police continue to monitor Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens campus, Shorewood Park, Sinnissippi Park, Alpine Park, Black Hhawk Park, Clarence Hicks Memorial Sports Field, Levings Lake, and Searls Park.

When these locations are closed, they are being utilized for unauthorized and unwanted activities, some of which result in violence.

Pop-up parties are having a community-wide impact, but local law enforcement agencies are working together to deter these after-hours activities, which requires a lot of manpower and resources. We believe the safety measures we have outlined will address the challenges we have been facing,” said Rockford Park District Police Chief Theo Glover. The Park District has already taken immediate action to help deter crime at locations such as Twin Sisters Hills Park, where gates have helped to decrease after-hours use and police calls. Rockford Park District Police have also been clearing the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens campus parking lots, and utilizing barricades to prevent large group gatherings after hours.

Additional mitigation recommendations are as follows:

• Modify park hours – The Park District recommends closing all parks at 10 p.m. versus 10:30 p.m., except for:

• Neighborhood parks, which close at sunset

• Rock River Recreation Path, which is open 24/7

• Facilities’ hours vary

• When special use permits or facility use contracts are issued versus 10:30 p.m. Neighborhood parks already close at sunset.

• Strengthen park ordinances – Revise ordinances to strengthen consequences for criminal offenses conducted on District property

• Add additional officers

• Operations – With high user activity during park and facility hours, additional officers will allow for even more pro-active support and patrol of regular operations, special events, as well as deter unwanted activity after hours.

• Enhance technology – Additional surveillance cameras and license plate readers are just a few of the crime-fighting tools needed to expand ability to monitor and respond

• Install more gates – Electronic gates will be installed at select park entrances to deter and prevent access to park areas after the parks close

• Update park signage and lighting

 “It is our responsibility to do everything we can to provide an environment where all are welcome and feel safe to play and recreate. We will adjust services by investing roughly $435,000 in the safety and security of the citizens we serve, while continuing to focus on intervention and prevention.

By keeping youth and teens active and engaged in programs, mentors, employment, and services, we can reduce the likelihood of future involvement in criminal activities,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine.

Following the presentation, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the necessary actions to implement the safety improvements as recommended.

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