Q: I live across the street from a park in Santa Monica and for the last several weeks a group of people have been hanging out in the park and making a lot of noise. This usually happens around midnight. Is there anything that can be done about them hanging out?

A: All of our Santa Monica parks have a closure ordinance which prohibits any person from entering, remaining or being present in a public park during the late night hours. The Santa Monica Municipal Code that deals with this is 4.08.091(a) and 4.08.091(b) and is a misdemeanor offense. This section doesn’t apply to any public sidewalk immediately adjacent to any public street or highway, or to any street or highway which traverses any park.

The majority of Santa Monica parks are closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Palisades Park closure hours are midnight to 5 a.m.

If you have a problem in your neighborhood park and would like an officer to respond to address the park closure ordinance, you should call police dispatch at (310) 458-8491. If it’s an on-going problem and needs special attention on a regular basis, you can contact the Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) for your area. To see which NRO handles your area, go to www.santamonicapd.org and go to the Neighborhood Resource Officer link. The NRO for your area can arrange to have officers do a periodic check during the problem days and hours.

Q: Every time I use my ATM, there’s someone there asking me for money. I feel very uncomfortable getting money out of the ATM and having someone asking me for money at the same time. Is there something that can be done about this?

A: With people taking larger amounts out of their ATM’s during the holidays to pay for gifts, I can understand your uneasy feeling about people asking you for money. There is a Santa Monica Municipal Code that deals with this issue and prevents persons from soliciting at certain locations. The Municipal Code is 4.08.750(a) and is a misdemeanor offense. According to the code, “solicit” means to ask another by word or gesture for money or for some other thing of value. The locations prohibited are:

1) In a public transportation vehicle;

2) In the outdoor dining area of a restaurant or similar establishment which serves food for immediate consumption;

3) Within 80 feet of an automated teller machine;

4) In a vehicle traveling on a public street;

5) In a public parking structure.

If you notice someone in violation of any of the prohibited areas, please call the Santa Monica Police Dispatch at (310) 458-8491 and report the incident.

<i>Public safety tip </i>

As you deck the halls this holiday season, be fire smart. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly.

Picking the tree

• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.

• Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

•Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

• Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

• Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.

The Christmas trees can be dropped off at several Santa Monica parks to be collected by Solid Waste Management. The parks are: Douglas Park on the Chelsea Street side, Christine Reed Park on the California Street side, Los Amigos Park on the Fifth Street side and the City Transportation Station at City Yards.

These Christmas tree safety tips and more can be obtained from the Santa Monica Fire Department web site. For further fire safety tips, go to www.santamonicafire.org.

This column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or scott.pace@smgov.net.