Medford police: Pear Blossom Park isn't turning into Hawthorne
Medford police say they'd already stepped up patrols to combat a recent spate of crimes and vagrancy in Pear Blossom Park prior to a stabbing Tuesday night.
"This is pretty much gonna be an isolated incident," said Lt. Mike Budreau. "This park is absolutely not being overrun by homeless or transients."
Officers arrested 25-year-old Heather Everman, no known address, on charges of second-degree assault after she allegedly stabbed 24-year-old Algie Paul Burdis around 8 p.m. in the park, located in The Commons in downtown Medford. If convicted, Everman faces a minimum of 90 months in prison under Measure 11 sentencing guidelines.
According to a probable cause statement filed Wednesday, Burdis told officers the stabbing was unprovoked. Burdis was seated in the park with five other people, who all knew Everman, police reported. She approached the group and, without argument or altercation, stabbed Burdis in the lower back, police said in a news release.
Everman was injured when bystanders apparently struck her in the face in an attempt to disarm her. She was arrested and taken to the Jackson County Jail, where she remained Wednesday on $1 million bail, jail records show.
Budreau said it didn't appear that any illegal activity had preceded the crime. "They weren't drinking, they weren't breaking any laws," he said.
Budreau said Medford police have handled 54 cases in Pear Blossom Park so far in 2014. Twelve of those resulted from encounters officers had while on patrol.
"Five of those were for trespass," he said. Another eight people have been cited for ordinance violations, including drinking and smoking in the park.
The stabbing was the only major incident since police stepped up patrols near The Commons several weeks ago after receiving complaints of transients sleeping in the park and stealing Wi-Fi from nearby businesses.
"I do think there's been a recent draw to this park, perhaps by word of mouth by other homeless," he said. "There was some Wi-Fi without a password going on at some of the businesses."
Budreau said that while police have noticed an uptick in drug and property crimes in the park, it's nothing compared to the problems Hawthorne Park has faced when it comes to crime. A 2011 stabbing at that park — along with a major brawl at Union Park — were among the incidents that spurred the creation of the city's exclusion ordinance, allowing police to bar violators from public parks for up to 180 days.
"Hawthorne Park is very big and it has multiple points of ingress and egress," he said. Pear Blossom Park, by contrast, is relatively compact and more easily patrolled.
"I don't want people to think (Pear Blossom Park) is an unsafe park," he said.