Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday is scheduled to consider an ordinance change the park board fears could lead to homeless encampments in the parks.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) has called for repealing the ordinance that prohibits overnight use of city parks.

In a memo to the committee, Parks Director Audrey Thompson says police records indicate arrests and tickets issued for overnight park use have declined substantially in recent years — from 16 in 2019 to three in 2021.

And she says the parks department “has not received any specific complaints about park hours not being sufficient to serve the community.”

Thompson says Parks and Recreation Board members raised a variety of objections to the proposed change during a meeting in February.

She listed them as:

  • No precedent of any other municipality or park district not having park closing hours.
  • No compelling reason to have 24/7 open park hours.
  • Parks and green spaces need time to rest to recover properly.
  • Increased patrolling of parks required if there were no park hours.
  • The homeless population may migrate to our parks .
  • Concerns about unauthorized usage of the park during overnight hours.
  • Congregating in the parks near neighboring houses.
  • Noise from parks disturbing neighbors.
Protesters at Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles on March 24, 2021, days before the city moved to clear the homeless encampment. (Ringo Chiu/Shutterstock)

Homeless encampments in parks have become an issue in a number of cities in recent years including at Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles, California, and Powerhorn Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where police have ultimately been called upon to clear the parks.

The Human Services Committee is also scheduled Monday to consider two other proposals from Reid to remove restrictions from the city code.

One change would eliminate an ordinance requiring “transient photographers” to obtain a license before taking photos on public property.

So far it appears no objection has been raised to that change.

The other would lift a ban on possession of burglar’s tools, including skeleton keys and lockpicks.

It’s not clear from the committee packet whether the police department plans to oppose that change.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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18 Comments

  1. An utterly brainless idea by Devon Reid, bad idea factory extraordinaire.

    1. Utterly brainless is mean. My reasoning for this is actually based on Supreme Court legal doctrine. Unlike the images presented by Evanston Now, the proposal would maintain a prohibition on encampments and would only end the practice of arresting people for mere peaceful presence in a park at night.

      Tennis, basketball courts, and other equipment will have use end in accordance with current regulations. Noise and other ordinances will still exist. The world will not end.

      1. Devon, your ideas are comprehensively without merit. Thus “brainless” or “dumb” are accurate and fitting. If your feelings are hurt, then try advancing ideas that are intelligent, business savvy or actually helpful.

      2. Mr Reid, I challenge you to research other cities that leave their parks open for encampment—-then please try and explain how this could ever be a good idea——kids playing in parks with junkies?—-I’m not concerned with your feelings Mr Reid, it’s your decision making that matters—-and one has to seriously be worried here

  2. Of all the problems that exist in Evanston, is this really worth debating and legislating a supposed “solution” to the problem of there being a closing time on the parks? Who are these people getting arrested after 11pm in the parks and what exactly are they doing there?

    It sounds to me like this “solution” is a way to limit law enforcement’s ability to clear the parks after closing hours – why on earth would we want to do this? How about we leave well enough alone and work on some of the bigger issues that Evanston is facing.

  3. Why would you want to allow people to wander around Evanston with burglar tools??
    Pry bars and lockpicks?? Not suspicious at all /s….

  4. This city is increasingly in love with encouraging disorderly conduct. What is their job, to throw up their hands and let anyone do anything with public property? Look, I grew up here and there are three reasons I can think of that people want to use the parks after 11 pm.
    1) To drink, hook up, and take drugs. You want more cans, bottles, rolling papers, and used condoms (sorry but I’ve seen it) discovered by moms with their toddlers in the parks? You want to give up the valuable excuse of ‘city curfew’ to send teens back home at night? Go ahead, open the parks and beaches up! And yes I’ve been told to go home by Evanston police when I was in high school, lolol.

    2) To sleep. Look I know the city is a bunch of bleeding hearts about homeless people, but the truth is that we have more than our fair share of homeless people BECAUSE of what they get in Evanston. Meals and rooms without strings attached. We’re already attracting out-of-community homeless people (homeless people themselves and the police have said as much). I have no problem with homeless people who act normally, but the truth is that most of them don’t. They are intoxicated during the day, roam the streets, have mental health problems… I realize homelessness is a real problem but encouraging homeless people to overrun parks and beaches, and drive away people who pay tax to use them is not the way. The city will let you get away with anything if you’re homeless but come after you for years to pay a $10 fine for something obscure.
    3) Having overnight events such as music festivals and actual fun and revenue generating events. But Evanston would never go for that! They’re allergic to fun, common sense, and planning.

  5. This is a horrendously stupid idea. What on earth is Reid thinking? Has Reid not seen what happens to public spaces when you don’t properly regulate them?

  6. Devon Reid time and time again proves that he is unfit to serve on the City Council. His ideas are truly dumb … just plain dumb. There is nothing he has advanced that makes any sense for Evanston. Time for him to go …

  7. I’m sorry, but is there any reasoning behind Alderman Reid’s request? There is literally no reason to have parks open 24/7; the Parks & Rec Board’s objections are right on target.

    Also, why on earth would anyone need to have lockpicks and other “burglar’s tools” just randomly on their person unless they’re either a locksmith or…wait for it…a burglar?

    I see all manner of “ideas” from Alderman Reid, but rarely any with merit.

    Between our D65 school board and administration and our city council, one can hardly wonder why there’s no confidence in Evanston’s government at this point in time…

    1. I personally have no confidence. Once we’re out of the school system, we’re out of here.

  8. This idea is beyond irresponsible!
    How about this… Instead of a $6.3 Million Animal Shelter (BTW, that $2100/sq ft if we double the size of the existing)…Why can’t we build a $2 Million dollar one (Like Skokie based C.A.R.E.S. did 2 years ago) and perhaps build a public bathroom downtown Evanston for Everyone to use and allocate the remaining funds to keeping it clean.
    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  9. 1. The Police don’t arrest kids for being at parks. Even if it’s 2am and they’re smoking weed, they still don’t arrest them. They simply tell them to get out of the park and go somewhere else. So when I hear “arrests are way down” I roll my eyes. Do you really think the Police want to arrest kids just being at a park after hours? C’mon man, get with it.

    2. The number you should look into is the amount of phone calls directed at parks after hours. Noise complaints, vandalism, large crowds, etc etc. That’s the number you want to look at.

    3. Ald. Reid – We all smoke marijuana, it’s fine, we get it, but you can’t be doing bong hits and watching CNN at the same time. It clouds your judgement and you come up with ideas like this. We’re here to help you. Please, please, please put the bong down and step away from CNN.

    4. This is just a really bad idea. I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to word it, it’s a really bad idea. Is there a forum that we can talk publicly to Mr. Reid whether it be via Zoom or in-person?

    5. I don’t think Ald. Reid understands that these parks are in the middle of neighborhoods. Houses with little children sleeping, parents who work 5-6 days a week with babies waking up every 2-3 hours. You’re pouring gasoline on a fire with this idea.

    6. Ald. Reid needs our helps guys – he’s disconnected from the community he serves.

  10. Given the city’s interest in becoming a homeless hub for north suburban Cook County, perhaps this would enable the housing overflow that is needed for those on the Hilda’s Place or the Margarita Inn’s Homeless Shelter waiting list. I would suggest starting with Raymond Park, then move on to the lakefront.

  11. Not sure I can add much more except to agree on how terrible an idea it is to open the parks 24/7. It would encourage bad behavior at a minimum if not outright increase crime in our local neighborhoods. Also if other suburbs and city folk know our parks are open 24/7 they could easily become the new drinking spot similar to the lake front in Chicago. And there is no reason for anyone to have “burglar tools” in their possession unless they works for a locksmith, etc. Vote this man out ASAP.

  12. Evanston’s new agenda: (1) Cut the police force by 25%. (2) Invite as many homeless people as possible to occupy our streets. (3) Likewise, house as many mental health institutions as possible. (4) Raise -or threaten to raise- taxes on job producing businesses who are welcomed by neighboring communities (as are our police officers). (5) Promote and encourage lawlessness and rule-breaking.

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