It’s been a little more than a month since Modesto banned smoking in its 75 parks, but officers have issued no citations and the city has not yet put up the “no smoking” signs.
But officers could not have issued citations. The Police Department did not update what is called its records management system to reflect the smoking ban. Police Chief Galen Carroll said that was an oversight that will be fixed.
He said the ban is not a top priority for officers given their limited numbers and the more pressing problems they handle. The ban is a tool officers can use if, for example, they encounter an obnoxious smoker at Concert in the Park at Graceada Park, he said. “I don’t believe there ever will be a lot of citations.”
The citations are $100 to $1,000 depending on whether the violation is treated as an administrative matter, infraction or misdemeanor, according to the city.
As context, Carroll said, Modesto has for years banned the use of tobacco within 50 feet of playgrounds and other children’s play areas, but only three citations have been issued in the past three years to people who violated that city ordinance.
Acting Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Manager Nathan Houx said the city is working on putting in signage for the smoking ban, which includes the Virginia Corridor. City Attorney Adam Lindgren said the ban is in place even though the signs have not yet gone up. The ban includes tobacco, marijuana and vaping.
The City Council gave its final approval to the ban March 7, and it took effect 30 days later. Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer cast the only vote against it, raising such concerns as it would be used to target the homeless who frequent city parks and the city did not have the resources to enforce it.
Councilwoman Kristi Ah You and some of her constituents in the college area asked for the ban.
Ah You said Thursday she did not expect the police to issue citations. She said the ban is something the city could accomplish quickly – unlike some of the other issues it faces – and sends the message that city parks need to be clean, healthy spaces for children, families and everyone else who uses them. “I am asking Modesto (residents) to just be considerate,” she said.
But Modesto resident and nonsmoker Eva Feeney said smoking in parks does not appear to be a big issue. “I don’t like smoking,” she said Thursday while in Davis Community Park with family members. “It (the smoke) makes me sick. But if I’m at a park (and someone is smoking), I can move away.”
Feeney said she’d rather the city tackle bigger problems, such as the people who park their cars, motorhomes and boats on trailers in the same spot along neighborhood streets for months at a time.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316