Lewd acts at Santa Monica park is growing problem, residents say

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Lewd acts are becoming an issue at Christine Emerson Reed Park in Santa Monica, and residents say they don't feel safe and want to see changes made.

A 12-year-old boy was playing on tennis courts at the park this summer. His mother was nearby when a homeless man called out to them.

"I heard a man say, 'Hey, you want some tennis balls?' And so I looked and I thought, 'Oh, he's exposing himself,'" recalled Santa Monica resident Colette O'Connell.

O'Connell said that man walked off and laid down on the sidewalk - still fully exposed.

"While he was lying down, he was exposing himself to anyone and everyone who would cross that crosswalk," she added.

Three weeks ago, there was another incident. This time at the public restrooms where park visitors with their young sons say a woman, naked from the waist down, was seen walking into a stall with a man to allegedly engage in sexual activity.

"We've really had a huge uptick in crime and as you can see walking through here, it kind of feels like a war zone," said Santa Monica resident Janet McLaughlin.

According to residents, the number of homeless in the city has doubled since the Metro Expo Line was extended. Many said they fear for the safety of their families and don't feel comfortable at Reed and other parks in the city.

"I've had to step over sleeping people with human defecation," shared neighborhood resident Debbie Mahdessian.

City leaders say they've addressed the problem by renovating the park, improving lighting and enhancing police presence with regular patrols, including mounted police and a mobile command post over the summer.

City leaders also created a homeless outreach team to connect transients with local services and shelters, but residents say it's not enough.

"I feel that the rights of the residents are being overlooked a lot lately," McLaughlin said.

Recreation and Parks Commission Chair John Smith said it may be time for the city to come up with new solutions.

"Give Santa Monica credit. They've tried a lot of things, but it's pretty clear that things the city has tried say in the last two years haven't worked out as well as they had hoped, so now it's time to try other things," Smith said.
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