Del Rio Police Department Chief Fred Knoll Jr. told members of the city council enforcing restrictions against certain activities in city parks “has become a game of cat-and-mouse.”
Knoll made his comments during the May 12 council meeting, as the council discussed extending its declaration of disaster for public health emergency.
City Manager Matt Wojnowski asked Knoll to speak to the council about the challenges his officers have faced in enforcing provisions in the existing declaration.
“Recently, we were able to put our bike patrol back in force along the creek, which has helped ... I personally have the opinion that if we’re going to close the parks, we need to close them. If we’re not going to close them, then the restrictions need to be almost nothing, because the problem we end up with is that you end up splitting hairs with people as to what they’re doing down there,” Knoll said.
“Somebody can tell you they’re walking, and you turn around and chase off another group down the road that’s barbecuing or something, and you turn back around and find out the first person that you were talking to has since taken a dip in the water. That’s what the staff has reported back to us. It’s become a game of cat and mouse,” the chief added.
Knoll said he understands citizens’ resistance to the idea of having to stay out of public parks.
“I don’t like closing the parks. I have children in the home, driving me crazy. I’ve been taking care of my grandkids, and it’s not a pretty thing, but we’ve worked through it. The arguments we’ve heard from some of the people down there include ‘I need my exercise.’ A lot of folks have the same argument when it comes to their children:‘This is the only thing my kids do. They don’t have bicycles, but they like to play in the water.’
“So how do you tell that parent that’s less important than the three people who are walking together doing their morning walk? It’s frustrating, and I’m not just speaking for myself. This is what I’m hearing from staff,” Knoll said.
The police chief warned against partial closures.
“Closing the (parks around the San Felipe Creek) has been difficult, but I don’t recommend opening them right now. If we’re going to keep things closed, it’s a lot easier to advertise and put it out there as opposed to you can’t do certain things or you can do certain things if there are so many people,” he told the council.
Knoll also recommended re-evaluating the closures on a regular basis.
“Nobody just shut the switch off on this virus. It’s still going, and it’s not just about politics or people getting upset, it’s about keeping the community safe,” the chief said.