Increased police awareness in the form of about 100 directed patrols and numerous covert operations since June 5 has revealed no significant criminal activity at Salter Grove, hopefully easing concerns from neighbors of the area who felt there was a problem with illicit behavior.
Police ramped up patrols in the park off Narragansett Parkway in response to concerns heard at a neighborhood meeting last spring. Police heard concerns of alcohol and drug activity, public sexual acts and other nefarious behaviors such as graffiti, but increased scrutiny in the area revealed nothing worse than “alcohol consumption at the breakwater,” and no arrests were made during this investigative period, according to Colonel Stephen McCartney.
McCartney said the issues at Salter Grove were not criminal in nature, but that there was a perception from some of the neighbors in the area that amounted to a “quality of life problem,” and that some took issue with seeing people loiter, while others took offense to nonsexual, public displays of homosexual affection.
“We recognized that citizens have a concern...but I think we need to recognize that times have changed. Everyone needs to be a little bit more open minded,” McCartney said. “We need to be able to draw a difference between two men sitting and talking and maybe holding hands...in my opinion that’s not a problem and I think we all need to recognize that.”
Peter Becker, Coordinator of the Friends of Salter Grove, a community group dedicated to improving and providing safe access to Salter Grove, said that the group had reached out to the Community Police Unit simply to make sure that there was no pattern of criminal behavior occurring at the park, and that some neighbors may have made the issue seem bigger than it truly was.
“We simply responded to concerns that were raised at that meeting,” said Friends of Salter Grove Coordinator, Peter Becker, adding that some had reported seeing needles and people smoking marijuana. “I think in some cases somebody might have witnessed something once and then that kind of gets blown out of proportion of how they view the park and in terms of risk of visiting the park, and so on and so forth.”
A press release sent out by the Friends of Salter Grove declared the park “family friendly” following the results of the increased patrols, as reported at a follow-up meeting of the group with Community Police Officers Daniel Maggiacomo and Sgt. William Defeo. They suggested improving the appearance of the park and reducing “hiding places” near the parking lot to help curtail any potential criminal activity.
Maggiacomo, said that “greater usage of the park by local residents would be the greatest deterrent to illegal activities.”
Becker hopes that the positive report from police will allow visitors and park visitors to “see for themselves what a wonderful treasure Salter Grove represents, rather than allowing past issues to cloud their current enjoyment.”