Safety & Security

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Gang Violence Cited in Pool and Park Closings

7 Aug, 2019

By: Michael Popke

It’s a sad state of affairs: sports facilities where people go to have kids escape from danger are still prone to them. Gang violence and shootings have caused a Philadelphia pool to have to change its hours to keep users safe. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time for this phenomenon.

The outdoor pool at the Belfield Recreation Center in Philadelphia’s East Germantown neighborhood reopened with abbreviated hours of operation more than a week after a spate of gun violence between rival drug gangs forced its closing.

“I believe we’ve had 13 shootings and probably about six homicides, so this is a continuing problem we’ve had in the community,”a local police lieutenant told Philadelphia ABC-TV affiliate WPVI.

The pool, which was drained in mid-July after a shooting just around the corner from the facility, is now open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and police stand watch nearby, WPVI reports.

“It makes me feel safer but at the same time, this is a neighborhood that’s so bad that a cop really has to sit there while children are swimming because people are so reckless,”Sakina Wert, a parent at the pool, told the TV station.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department has vowed to continue working with police to create a safer environment, and plans call for launching movie nights and new basketball leagues.

Gang violence also temporarily shut down city parks in Barnwell, S.C., in March following a shooting that city police thought to be in retaliation for a homicide in nearby Williston two days earlier. No injuries were reported, and the parks were closed out of an “abundance of caution,” according to BarnwellPolice Chief Brian Johnson.

“The gangs are at one another,” Johnson announced at the time of the closures. “We don’t want anybody hurt.”

When the parks reopened, a police officer was stationed outside one of the parks generating the most concern, and local and county officials are reportedly discussing ideas and initiatives to curtail gang-related issues. Potential solutions include improving blighted areas that attract crime and reviving a countywide drug/gang task force helmed by at least two full-time police officers.

Barnwell Mayor Marcus Rivera also had some advice for residents. “The time is now to stop being your child’s friend and be the adult,” he told The Augusta Chroniclei n nearby Augusta, Ga. “Start parenting these kids instead of kids parenting adults. These types of senseless crimes will not be tolerated in the City of Barnwell and will be handled accordingly. I pray that we all figure this thing out sooner than later.”

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