Lodi has hired a part-time police officer in an effort reduce growing crime and safety concerns in city parks.
Matt Liu, a reserve officer with the Lodi Police Department for 22 years, began patrolling local parks, primarily the Lodi Lake Nature Area and Kofu Park, on March 17, in order to limit vandalism, drug use, gang problems and other crimes.
"Between all the factors, I felt it was important to have someone patrol the parks," said Jeff Hood, director of Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
Hood said he realized the need for an officer after listening to complaints from Lodi residents worried about park safety.
"Hearing a couple comments from people concerned for their safety, that really set off an alarm in my head," he said. "One of the most important things for the department is for people to feel safe at Lodi Lake and other parks."
Liu, who is a full-time auditor for the Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control, works 10 to 12 hours per week. But crime often increases in the summer, so the city plans to soon hire up to four officers and expand their hours.
"Even though my hours are limited, I try to be highly visible," Liu said. "People are highly appreciative of the law enforcement's presence."
Lodi began advertising the position in December for $30 to $33 an hour. It's funded by the parks division and water utility unit.
Liu isn't new to this job.
He was part of Lodi's original park ranger program, which patrolled the parks during the late 1990s. But when a Parks and Recreation grant that funded the program ended, the position was eliminated.
Now that Liu is back on patrol, he's already had the opportunity to make a difference.
He and other officers helped locate a 5-year-old boy who went missing during a family gathering at Lodi Lake.
He's also been making sure dogs stay out of the Lodi Lake Nature Area.
"Matt has made a difference already," Hood said. "There are fewer dogs in the nature area, fewer potential problems at the skate park. We've received some good feedback from visitors at the lake."
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.