by: Madeleine Pauker
The City of Santa Monica is holding four family fun days at Reed Park in January, which officials say could discourage the criminal activity that has become widespread there this year.
Meet Me at Reed started in summer 2017 and was held again this past summer after it proved popular with families. The series is returning to the park on Jan. 5, 12, 19 and 26, each day featuring a different theme and child-friendly activities, games and live music. Food trucks are a new addition this year.
Jan. 5 is Superhero Day. Visitors can enjoy a super obstacle course and superhero character face painting. Jan. 12 is Eco-Friendly Day, where the reDiscover Center will bring materials for families to create a cardboard playground. There will also be community garden workshops and a chance to interact with reptiles.
On Jan. 19, Family Play Day, instructors from Play-Well TEKnologies, which teaches engineering through LEGO, will make an appearance. There will also be opportunities to make art and participate in a cornhole tournament.
Lastly, people can bring their dogs to a park of the park off the leash on Jan. 26. Kids can watch dog agility demonstrations and read dog-themed books at a pop-up from the Santa Monica Public Library.
Families will flock to the park just two months after the Recreation and Parks Commission wrote a letter to City Council describing an uptick in crime at Santa Monica’s parks and beach. Several parents told the council their children have found bags of meth and hypodermic needles in the parks, or have encountered people prostituting or exposing themselves.
The commission asked for more frequent police patrols, additional lighting and more enforcement of existing park and beach closure and camping laws, among other suggestions.
Commission Chair John C. Smith said at the Nov. 13 council meeting he believes Santa Monica’s increasing homeless population has contributed to the increase in crime.
At the meeting, several councilmembers said they felt increasing police presence would make the parks unwelcoming and favored installing AI-assisted cameras and improving maintenance instead.
Equally important to addressing the uptick in crime, some said, would be ensuring families continue to use the parks.
“Being in those spaces will be the most effective way to curtail a lot of this activity,” Mayor Gleam Davis said at the November meeting. “If we’re afraid of them, they become more desolate, and criminals want to be in areas where there aren’t a lot of people.”
Davis said the success of Meet Me at Reed could be a model for making the parks more dynamic and inviting, which the council agreed could keep criminals from seeing them as a place to do business.