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Oshkosh city leaders may ban offenders from parks

OSHKOSH, WI (WTAQ) - The Oshkosh City Council will take up a plan Tuesday night which would ban certain offenders from parks.

Oshkosh police officer Joe Nichols tells FOX 11 there recently has been some issues. 

"Rude and indecent behavior, and people were being arrested on a continuous basis," said Nichols.

According to Parks Director Ray Maurer, police were called to 575 disturbances at city parks in 2011. In 2012, that number jumped to about 700 calls. Among those disturbances were people drinking alcohol in parks after hours, sleeping in bathrooms and vandalism.

So Maurer and the police department are asking the city council to pass an ordinance. 

"Hopefully it'll cut down on some of the police calls here in the parks and let them do some of their other duties," said Maurer. 

Maurer says people could be banned for as short as three days for minor, first-time offenses, to as long as life for felonies.

Under the proposal, the parks director would ultimately decide the punishment. Offenders would be able to appeal. 

"It's a privilege to be able to use the city parks system, so that's one of the reasons we feel there is case law that supports this park suspension policy," explained Maurer. 

When it comes to enforcement, the ban would be handled much like driving with a revoked license.  If a banned person is caught in a park, he or she would face harsher citations or punishments.

"If you're getting to the point of a park suspension, you're probably not seeing the police for the first time.  So they're aware of who you are and what you've been doing," said Maurer. 

"With this ordinance, hopefully we'll be able to return the parks back to the families.," said Nichols.