Skatepark skulduggery

Lafayette park keeps cops busy in first seven months

photo by Sue France

Police have spent a significant amount of time responding to incidents at the skatepark in Lafayette during the first seven months it has been open.

A records search shows that police have been called to the skatepark at least 15 times since it opened last December, responding to everything from graffiti to theft to assaults. Searches of records at other local police departments produced only six similar calls to the skatepark at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder, and there were only three at the Sandstone Ranch skatepark in Longmont. And both of those tallies were for the past year, not seven months. (A staff member at the Louisville police department told Boulder Weekly that officers responded to no incidents at that city’s skatepark over the past year.)

The most recent incident at the Lafayette skatepark, which is located on the north side of the Bob L. Burger Recreation Center, occurred on May 28, when two kids got into an argument that ended in a broken arm and charges of assault and disturbing the peace. According to a police report, the two adolescents exchanged words, then one boy attempted to shake hands, at which point the other kid grabbed his arm, twisted it and pulled it over onto his shoulders until it made a popping sound.

On May 22, someone reported a stolen skateboard that was later recovered sans wheels and bearings, and police have been unable to locate a suspect. On April 14, an adolescent boy told police that someone threw his skateboard into one of the bowls and a piece broke off. According to an April 10 report, a man reported that his son’s backpack, which contained Target gift cards and a Sony camera, was stolen. The case was closed after no suspect was identified.

According to an April 30 report, police responded to a hit-and-run car accident in the parking lot, and two days later officers found graffiti in the area, including the gang tag “14NORT13” as well as the words “420 bitch’s” and “West Side.”

On April 18, a 15-year-old boy was arrested on assault charges after allegedly knocking down another man and punching him multiple times.

And on April 8, an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old got into a physical altercation after exchanging words. According to police, one accused the other of “talking trash,” and onlookers broke up the scuffle that ensued. Both were issued summonses for disorderly conduct and barred from the park for one year.

The day before, police responded to another report of graffiti near the skatepark, and on March 25, a backpack containing a hoodie, a Nintendo DSi video game player and a skate tool was stolen from the park, according to police reports.

On March 20, Lafayette police responded to a case of harassment at the skatepark in which an adolescent girl accused a man of yelling at her to get out of one of the bowls. The man, who the girl estimated as being between 20 and 30 years old, allegedly hollered that if she didn’t get out of the bowl, he would “knock her down, make her bleed [and] leave her there,” the report said. The case was closed when police could not locate the suspect.

On Feb. 26, police cited two men for drinking beer in the parking lot, contrary to park rules, and on Feb. 19, an iPod Nano was stolen from an unlocked car parked on the south side of the skatepark.

On Dec. 29, police busted a 16-year-old for smoking cigarettes in the skatepark, and on Dec. 21, there was a report of a bike tire being slashed in the parking lot. According to a Dec. 12 report, a man reported being assaulted by three individuals who police suspect are members of the Northside gang.

By way of comparison, the three Longmont skatepark incidents that occurred over the course of a year consisted of two lost cell phones and a found diaper bag, according to police records for that address.

A similar search of calls to the skatepark at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder produced six incidents during the past year, including a hit-and-run car accident, graffiti, a lost wallet, a broken van window and a transient sleeping in the park who had some marijuana and a pipe. There was one assault at the Boulder skatepark during that time, when a 17-year-old reported being punched in the face two or three times by a 25- to 30-year-old man after a verbal altercation.

But the comparatively high number of incidents at the Lafayette skatepark does not stand out as a red flag, according to Cmdr. Gen McCausey of the Lafayette police. McCausey told Boulder Weekly that the activity at the skatepark is about what police expected to see, if not less than anticipated.

“We’re pleased that we haven’t had more incidents there,” he says. “I would consider it a safe place. I don’t live in Lafayette, but if I did and if I had young kids, I wouldn’t mind if they went up there to the skatepark and played.”

McCausey says Lafayette police did consult with other police agencies in the area last year — especially the Longmont police — on skatepark issues such as whether to have a mandatory helmet rule and whether to install video surveillance cameras.

He says some of the incidents over the past seven months can simply be chalked up to the age group.

“A 12-year-old kid twists the arm of another kid and breaks the arm — I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of it, but you put together 12- and 13-year-old boys with their hormones going crazy, and things happen,” he says.

Boulder resident Jordan Grano, who regularly takes his 6-year-old son Ryder to skateboard at the county’s skateparks, says he has seen nothing untoward at the Lafayette park, although he acknowledges that he takes his son there during times when it is not busy.

“I’ve been surprised at how few incidents I’ve seen,” Grano told Boulder Weekly. “Boulder’s [skatepark] has been the roughest one, actually, because a lot of bikers use it.”

He explains that BMX bikers travel faster than skaters, hop quickly from bowl to bowl, and take up more space with their lines, which makes it difficult for skaters to drop into a bowl that has a biker using it. Grano says he has witnessed no bad behavior at the county’s skateparks, other than occasional graffiti and bad language, and other skaters actually offer encouraging words to his son sometimes.

McCausey counters the perception that skateboarding can attract a bad element, echoing the bumper sticker, “Skateboarding is not a crime.”

“Sometimes there are less desirables involved, but overall I think they’re just kids enjoying the skatepark,” he says.

Curt Cheesman, Lafayette director of recreation and facilities management, did not return calls by press time.