With Signs Of History Repeating, Town Cracks Down At Attaquin Park In Mashpee
By: Michael C. Bailey
Over the years, Attaquin Park Beach has cycled through stretches with disruptive behavior by visitors, followed by periods of calm.
As evidenced by last month’s stabbing at the park by alleged assailant Troy M. Monteiro of Hyannis (see related story on page 6), the park may be in the midst of a problematic period, but town officials are stopping short of calling the town-owned beach a hot spot for trouble on par with some of its past dark days.
“It’s not,” Wayne E. Taylor of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen said, “but there’s enough trouble there that it gets your attention.”
Graffiti is one of the most frequent issues, Mr. Taylor said, with vandals spraypainting obscene and anti-police messages on park property. Improper disposal of trash is another hassle, Rodney C. Collins, chief of the Mashpee Police Department, said.
“Some disrespect and discourtesy toward ‘rec’ department staff”’ manning the gates and lifeguard station is another, according to the chief. But Heidi L. McLaughlin, program director for the Mashpee Recreation Department, said she has received no formal complaints from beach staff of harassment since the town began staffing its beaches on July 1.
“We tell them if anyone gives them any grief or is being disrespectful, they call the police and let them handle it,” Ms. McLaughlin said. “We’re not going to tolerate that kind of treatment.”
The park’s more serious issues stem from what happens there after 7:30 PM, when the beach is closed to the public and the gate in front of the parking lot is locked. “That’s when a lot of the issues come into play, after sunset,” Mr. Taylor said, adding that “it’s not any one group” causing the majority of the problems.
Chief Collins said his officers were “familiar with some of the faces we encounter” during nighttime patrols of the area. He indicated that the troublemakers tended to be juveniles and young adults.
To try and “nip these problems in the bud,” as Mr. Taylor put it, representatives from the board of selectmen, Mashpee Police Department, Mashpee Recreation Department, Mashpee Department of Public Works, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe met twice last month to discuss what Mr. Taylor regarded as a series of issues that, individually, were minor but collectively made for a significant headache.
“It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful beach, and we want residents to be able to enjoy it,” he said.
“We want this to be a place for enjoyment and quality recreational use,” Chief Collins said, “and not a place for intimidation, harassment, and other acts that are likely to cause people discomfort.”
The 7:30 PM closing is new this year, an effort to deter people from using the beach as an after-dark hangout. New signage has been posted clearly stating the rules of the beach, and the police department has increased its patrols of the Attaquin Park Beach/Lake Avenue area.
Chief Collins declined to detail how frequently police now check the beach or at what times the patrols are increased.
The chief said he wanted to see what effect the patrols and early closure time have, but if the problems continue, “I will look at other avenues,” he said, including the installation of security cameras. “That possibility is under review.”
Catherine E. Laurent, director of the Mashpee DPW, said conditions at the park have been “bad” compared to other locations in terms of the garbage and graffiti problem. But both have “gotten better over the last month” after the Mashpee Recreation Department began staffing the park for the summer season, she said.
The DPW has been to the park twice specifically to paint over graffiti, “and we’re down there regularly” to empty the trash bins, she said. “With the weather we’ve been having, the beaches are getting a lot of use.”
The vandalism, trash, and late-night gatherings have been regular, on-and-off issues, while the more serious problems—physical assaults—have been fewer and farther between.
In 2004 a man was seriously beaten during a nighttime altercation. In 2002 two women were hurt when a male assailant hit one in the head with a rock and shoved the other to the ground so hard as to render her unconscious. In 1996 police made three arrests following a daytime fight in the parking lot between six individuals.
The darkest day in the park’s history may be July 9, 1988, when Domingo P. Texiera III of Hyannis beat Pedro Hernandes of West Roxbury to death following a nighttime confrontation between two groups of men. At the time, the park was also plagued by repeat vandalism and careless disposal of trash.
The police department’s response in 1988 was the same as it was following the June 2010 stabbing: increased patrols.
The town’s response the following year  was to appoint a beach superintendent, Mark A. Mason of Sandwich, to crack down on the various problems, and by July of that year the town declared the park “turned around.”
In 1983 and 1984 the town pulled gate attendants and lifeguards from the beach after several staff members reported being harassed, verbally abused, and spat at by beachgoers, who were more than occasionally drunk.
Chief Collins said he was aware of the park’s history. “The problems do appear to go in cycles,” he said. But breaking the cycle and maintaining peace in the long term were ultimately the responsibility of Mashpee parents, he said.
“I’d like to hope at some point we’re not dealing with the same problems anymore because people who use the beach show it the proper respect,” he said. “We need parents to get involved to bring about a change of attitude in the kids going down there.”
Mr. Taylor said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, Treasurer Mark D. Harding, and former vice chairman David L. Pocknett Sr. represented the tribe at the meetings. Tribal officials declined to comment for this story.
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