TUCSON – There are growing concerns about the number of homeless people taking up residence in and around a popular park on Tucson’s east side.
It comes following a number of recent incidents that have people who use and pay for the park on edge.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to know – exactly what is the city doing about the issue?
“It’s definitely a wake-up call, I think,” Greg Geile, president of Sabino Canyon Little League told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.
Geile is talking about the situation at Udall Park near Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon roads.
“There’s definitely still concern. I mean, we’re far more vigilant than we’ve been in the past. I’m not sure if that’s good or if that’s bad, but we’re definitely more vigilant,” Geile told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.
Earlier this month, parents with the little league say nearly two dozen banners at the park were found slashed.
Those banners were donated by local businesses, with the money raised going to help needy families on the teams.
They have since been replaced, but fears about vandalism or other crimes at Udall Park are not going away.
“Luckily we have someone here that’s with TPD – one of our coaches is TPD, so when he calls he seems to get a quicker response than we can get,” Geile told News 4 Tucson Investigators.
It is not just slashed banners that are raising concerns at Udall Park.
Back on April 6, a mother who was dropping her children off at the park called police after she said she witnessed a man touching himself.
A couple of days later, an off duty officer questioned two men who were moving tools behind a wash.
Both of those men were convicted sex offenders, including one who had failed to register.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators also located what appears to be a homeless camp on city property south of the little league fields.
We showed that video to Tucson City Council member Paul Cunningham, whose ward includes Udall Park.
“Everybody needs to be vigilant, make sure they have their eyes on their kids. We’re going to be here. Our parks rangers are going to be here,” Cunningham told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.
Geile also tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, players on his teams are also taking precautions in the wake of recent incidents.
“Kids will go to the bathroom in groups now. If there’s somebody in there, you don’t go in. It’s just, the whole community is just more aware,” he said.
Tucson Police tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, they try to be proactive when it comes to the homeless situation at Udall or other city parks, and they also work to connect people living on the streets with services, while still enforcing the law.
“If the homeless folks are set-up on city property, we initiate the homeless protocol, which basically involves posting the camp with a 72-hour notice to vacate. If they’re not gone within that period of time, they’re subject to being arrested for trespassing,” Tucson Police Captain Justin Lane told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.
“It’s never going to go away; it’s never going to be perfect. But, if we’re handling it properly and honestly then most of the time, it won’t be invasive to our quality of life,” Cunningham said.