Patrolling Parks & Beaches: Law enforcement reps address community meeting

By Ashley Mackin

La Jolla Parks and Beaches Chair Dan Allen arranged for representatives from the police department, and lifeguard and park ranger services to clarify their roles at the July 22 meeting.

Permits and Licensing Officer Cindy Meyer explained her duties as they pertain to La Jolla’s parks and beaches, and Lifeguard Lieutenant Rick Strobel, Park Ranger Rich Belesky and San Diego Police Northern Division Lieutenant Larry Hesselgesser fielded questions as well.

Permits and Licensing

In response to member concerns about illegal vending in Scripps Park, Meyer joked, “I’m only one person,” and explained that she must monitor 1,300 tobacco stores, all solicitors (vendors who attempt to get people’s attention), plus curb painters and arcade workers, to ensure they are operating legally — and she only works weekdays. The problem becomes the park vendors, who set up shop on weekends.

Meyer recommended that concerned citizens report illegal vending to her via e-mail at

She said she would send requested copies of the municipal code as it pertains to illegal vending, so park-goers can notify unpermitted (or vendors with expired permits) that they are operating against the law and be able to cite the municipal code.


Responding to a question from the audience, Lt. Strobel addressed the suggestion that park-and beach-goers make a citizen’s arrest. Because lifeguards must witness a crime or municipal code violation in order to write a citation, they want it known that in cases where a citizen observes a crime being committed, that witness can make a citizen’s arrest.

Despite the extremity of the name, a citizen’s arrest is simply the case where a private person, who actually observes an offense, requests a citation from a law enforcement officer, so the private person may fill it out. While the lifeguards are also agents of law enforcement, Stobel said he considers San Diego Police and the Park Rangers the leaders in law enforcement, and so the best people to report a crime to when one is witnessed.

Addressing another concern, Strobel explained why there were Toyota trucks observed on the Cove grass July 21. He said the City of San Diego has an agreement with Toyota through which the lifeguards received 34 vehicles in exchange for Toyota getting eight water safety days where they can display their trucks and gain extra branding.

Children’s Pool

LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather asked if each representative knew that it is legal to go under the guideline rope at Children’s Pool and access the beach, so long as one didn’t disturb or harass the seals there. Each answered yes.

Conversely, member Jane Reldan asked the four representatives to comment on the May 14 memo issued by the city that changed the definition of harassment.

Belesky — as the authority at city parks — said prior to May 14, “any disturbance to the seal’s behavior incidental to normal beach use was not a violation of city law. Now, any disturbance to the seals, intentional or unintentional, is considered a violation of city law,” he said. “It is up to the officer or ranger present to determine if a violation has occurred.”

Strobel said making that determination is challenging. He said he is not a marine biologist and therefore not an expert on what would be considered normal seal behavior, and so doesn’t know what might be a disruption to seal behavior. He said, for example, “if someone sneezes and a seal lifts its ‘head,’ I would have a hard time determining whether that is harassment.”

Hesselgesser added, for the most part, “we are there to keep the peace.” He said if someone witnesses human or seal harassment — or a crime being committed — he or she should call the police on the non-emergency line (619) 531-2000, those living in (858) area code, can call (858) 484-3154.