BRADENTON -- To weed out the troublemakers at the new skate park on the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton, police are asking city officials to authorize officers to issue trespassing citations.
Bradenton police Officer Tony Cerniglia made the request to the Bradenton City Council on Wednesday morning. Right now, Bradenton officers don't have authority to issue trespass citations on city-owned property.
Cerniglia, who patrols downtown Bradenton, says hundreds of people are routinely converging at the skate park Friday and Saturday nights, the majority being nonrecreational visitors using the area as a hangout spot.
This past Saturday, Cerniglia said, three fights broke out at the park, which required officers from other patrol areas to assist. City officials have said the park has been closed on more than one occasion to disperse crowds of all ages, and a few juveniles have been taken into custody.
The problem, Cerniglia said, is once juveniles are in custody, they are quickly released to their parents and will sometimes return to the skate park hours later.
An ordinance, which Cerniglia compared to those already existing in Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg, would allow officers to issue citations for misconduct and ban violators from returning to the park for an extended period of time.
"And if they trespass again, we could arrest them," he said.
A tower has been set up at the skate park to help officers monitor the crowds, and the ordinance would allow officers to issue trespassing citations on all city-owned property.
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith visited the park the past two Saturdays.
"The people there weren't there to skate, they were there to see a fight," he said.
Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority is exploring installing cameras at Riverwalk. A recent bid proposal offered a price of $39,000. If installed, cameras would help police identify repeated trespassers.
The department will have more officers in the park during the Christmas holiday, and skaters have discussed placing an etiquette sign at the park.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:_1NickWilliams.