Pleasant Hill Park security upgrades in motion before slaying

Pleasant Hill ‘remains a safe place’ despite city worker’s death, says Rinn
Makeshift memorial honoring Santiago Jacobo appeared near the area where the Pleasant Hill Park janitor died in February. (David Scholz photo)

PLEASANT HILL, CA (Mar. 19, 2024) — Even before the death of janitorial staff member Santiago Jacobo rocked Pleasant Hill Park & Rec district staff, officials already were eagerly awaiting an assessment of security needs for the entire system.

Jacobo’s wife found him stabbed to death in the main parking lot of Pleasant Hill Park on Feb. 10.

A draft assessment of the consultant’s Physical Security Master Plan is due this month to the board of directors, before the formal report comes in this spring, according to district manager Michelle Lacy.

The district’s Request for Proposals (RFP) specified active and passive security measures. This includes video, lighting and environmental design upgrades to the landscaping to help reduce opportunities for crime.

The lack of cameras on either the main district office or the Aquatics building adjacent to the parking lot where the fatal stabbing occurred meant no video evidence is available from those vantage points as Pleasant Hill police continue to investigate the homicide.

Rise in vandalism and graffiti

The board sought the security master plan last November due to the uptick in property crimes such as vandalism and graffiti. Lacy said the district originally earmarked $90,000 as a base budget for security improvements. She noted that the amount may increase depending on how Pacheco-based Security by Design analyzes needs.

“Since we have engaged a professional security consultant, we expect that the plan will be comprehensive and address vulnerabilities identified within our public parks,” Lacy said.

The timetable for the formal assessment is contingent on the completion of day and nighttime visits to all locations and interviews with stakeholders who use the park as well as Pleasant Hill police.

Lacy noted that it will be difficult to tailor the security plan to consider Jacobo’s death, because district officials don’t know specifically what occurred. The fatal assault happened between late in the evening on Friday, Feb. 9, and the wee hours of Saturday morning.

While the district office and entry to the pool do not have cameras, the city installed cameras at the Teen Center when it was built. One is over the entry to the building, and another is on side by the park near the outside restroom.
Sandy Vinson, chair of the district board, acknowledged “it would seem reasonable” to have cameras in other areas.
“But I will wait to see the information,” she added. “We will have a discussion about what’s in the report and what we might want to add.”

A long-standing safety committee also continues its work to identify things that need fixing.

Remaining vigilant

As was the expectation before the fatal attack, Lacy said officials continue to direct staff to take precautions and remain vigilant of their surroundings. This includes leaving the buildings with a buddy.

“We are scheduling custodians in pairs if they must work in a building after dark and have reminded staff that they need to look out for each other and leave the building and property together,” she said.

“We are trying to make things as safe as possible as we move forward,” Lacy added.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.