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Rowdy Innisfail youths nabbed after wild park ride

SUV allegedly driven on Innisfail's Centennial Park grass beside parking lot while other youths straddled running boards
MVT Centennial Park problems
There is more anti-social problems being reported at Innisfail's Centennial Park. Following an April 26 report local peace officers probed a wild ride incident at and near the parking lot that involved several youths. File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Cameras at Centennial Park have led to the identification of a driver of an SUV who brazenly drove on grass and then on the parking lot with revelling friends straddling the vehicle’s running boards.

The incident on April 26 is the latest of several disturbing incidents of anti-social behavior that has been witnessed and reported at Centennial Park since last February.

On May 3, Gary Leith, the town’s manager of fire and protective services, said one individual from a group of six youths involved in the ride has been identified and “appropriate action” has been taken.

“Through an investigation we have been able to identify the registered owner and driver and potentially charge (the driver). I can’t discuss whether charges have been laid until its before the courts,” said Leith, adding the six involved in the park ride are young offenders, and the matter is being handled by peace officers in his department. “It’s currently under investigation. Our peace officers can enforce the provincial Traffic Safety Act.”

The Albertan obtained a video of the incident but is not publishing it or screen shots as all participating accused are believed to be minors and their identity is protected by the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Leith said his department considers Centennial Park a “high priority area” for local law enforcement.

 “It has been for a number of years,” he said, adding there are a several types of ongoing enforcement actions underway, including bike patrols, as well as speed and traffic controls.

“We did install cameras in that area and those cameras, certainly in this case and other cases, have led to the identification of individuals who are up to no good and led to enforcement actions against them,” he said. “They are providing a useful tool, so if citizens see activities going on there that they feel are in breach of our bylaws or provincial laws they can ring us up and let us know that these activities are going on.”

As for future enforcement and monitoring at Centennial Park, Leith said the town will be utilizing a multi-disciplined approach.

“Obviously we will continue to develop those plans in conjunction with enforcement, the community, council and the policing committee in how we can provide improvements into the events we occasionally see,” said Leith, adding there are no issues with “99 per cent” of all community interactions in the park. “But there are obviously times when they aren’t good and this is an example of that, and it’s been dealt with effectively.”

In 2019, town council gave administration the green light to spend $8,000 on video security cameras to keep an eye on any potential anti-social behaviour. Council and administration had been looking at the park's security issue since a delegation presentation more than a year earlier proposed solutions to curb anti-social behaviour, which included litter problems.

Coun. Jason Heistad has been demanding action to have the park monitored and to bring in better behavior controls since he made a passionate appeal to council on Feb. 14.

“I am passionate about it because it is our (council) job. When we get complaints or it’s ongoing for a while, and this just isn’t in the last couple of months. It has been going on for a couple of years,” said Heistad on May 5.

Heistad told the Albertan “numerous” citizens have told him it’s time to have a discussion about the problems and the required solutions for the park.

“And making sure it’s a safe place for all people to come and go to the dog park and walk around Napoleon Lake,” said Heistad, who walks to Centennial Park every morning. “We need to work cooperatively with our bylaw (department) and our local RCMP detachment to make sure it’s a safe place. And garbage, loitering and being abusive to people who may be telling young people to slow down because they are speeding and being reckless there is not condoned. Period.”

Heistad said one measure council can do is to increase fines around littering in the new updated Community Standards Bylaw, which could be approved by council this week. He also wants increased signage at the park, as well as at Dodd’s Lake.

The draft updated Community Standards Bylaw calls for a $150 fine for a first littering offence, with a $250 hit for a second offence within one year. Third and subsequent offences within a year jump up to $500.

“We have to have a structure in place for residents and visitors coming into our town who are utilizing these great spaces,” said Heistad. “If you communicate effectively with our community, through our policing committee and our bylaw, people will be happy with going to the park and feeling safe.

“Frankly, I am tired of it, disappointed at individuals who don’t treat the area in a respectful manner.”