New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is opposed to closing two so-called pocket parks on Acushnet Avenue despite calls from several members of the city council to shut them down.

The parks, one at Nye Street and the other at Phillips Avenue, are hot spots for crime, prompting Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta to seek out alternative uses for the property. Giesta and At-Large Councilor Deb Coelho, who lives near the Nye Street park, said drug dealing, sex acts, prostitution, and all sorts of illicit behavior are rampant in the parks after dark.

Giesta's motion to have the council study other possible uses for the park properties won unanimous approval during last week's council meeting. She said a neighborhood business might be interested in purchasing the lots for use for customer parking, and there may be others interested in acquiring the space as well.

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Mitchell said on my Wednesday program that converting the parks to parking lots would not solve the crime problem. He said offenders would simply adapt to the new surroundings. Mitchell said what is needed is for the police department to step up and do a better job of enforcing the law. He said New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro is aware of the situation and understands that more rigid enforcement is required.

Mitchell's point is valid. Removing benches and bushes from the parks would not solve the crime problem. The dealers could just as easily deal dope from between parked cars. Mitchell is also correct to say that the police have to step it up a notch or two. That takes leadership.

Chief Cordeiro must formulate a plan to drive the scourge out of the pocket parks and make them safe once more for families in the area. Pressure needs to be applied and reapplied to make sure the parks stay safe.

Residents of Ward 2 should not have to surrender their little bit of park space to dealers and hookers. The Mitchell Administration and Chief Cordeiro need to make sure it doesn't happen.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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