Santa Ana city leaders say its armed park rangers could be replaced by unarmed park ambassadors by mid-February.
The city says the move would be part of a plan to cut back on pension and retirement expenses.
The Santa Ana City Council plans to vote Jan. 20 on whether to approve 15 ambassador jobs, which would pay about half what the rangers are paid.
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City officials say the rangers spend about a quarter of their time on actual police work. The rest is spent interacting with people and making their presence known in the city's 40 parks.
The ambassadors would roam the parks more frequently than the rangers, who work part time, officials said.
“You’re going to end up doing more prevention, which I believe is the best way to keep the parks safe,” said Gerardo Mouet, the city parks director.
Rangers have been carrying guns in the city’s parks since 1991. They have the same power as police officers. For example, they can write tickets and make arrests.
The ambassadors would not be allowed to carry firearms, the city said.
Resident Louisa Pedroza-Solis grew up across the street from El Salvador Park. She said as a child she could not go to to the park alone.
“This is a park of children, but at night it's a different kind of park,” Pedroza-Solid said.
As an adult, she has watched gangs try to claim the park. One night, a bullet form a drive-by shooting went through her parents’ home. She said the rangers should be armed.
“I say give them the guns let them protect themselves, but be careful because there are a lot of children here,” Pedroza-Solis said.
If the ambassador jobs are approved, officials said the police department would assign one officer to patrol the parks.