Meridian Hill Park on 16th Street NW will close nightly, starting in the first week of the new year, to reduce vandalism and crime, the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police said Thursday.

From Jan. 6 to April 30, Meridian Hill, also called Malcolm X Park, will close at 9 p.m. nightly and reopen at daybreak. From May 1 to Oct. 31, closing will be at midnight. The new hours have been posted at entrances to the park, which runs for 1,000 feet between Florida Avenue and Euclid Street.

A lieutenant in the U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction in the park, said the curfew is a last-ditch effort to curb the after-dark crime that has plagued the park increasingly during the last few years. After nightfall, the park frequently is used as a haven for illegal drug dealing, gambling and robbery.

Heretofore, according to the Park Police, officers have patrolled the area on foot and in cars, watching those in the park and making arrests or ordering persons suspected of criminal behavior to leave.

A Park Service statement described the closing as a safety precaution. It said the park, recognized as a fine example of an Italian- and French-influenced formal garden, attracts thousands of visitors weekly. The statement said the area Advisory Neighborhood Commission also recommended the closing.