AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – City parks are often peaceful places where children play and residents walk, read or relax.
But leaders in one Northeast Ohio city say their parks are being overrun by gun violence, and they’re working on a plan to make them safer.
Young football players practiced on the field and cheerleaders perfected their moves on the court at Akron’s Lane Field on a warm Tuesday in October.
Back in August, the park was the scene of a shooting that seriously injured a seven-year-old boy and a 19-year old man.
“There was no security, not at all,” said Ward 5 councilmember Tara Mosley.
Mosley says many considered the shooting the last straw.
“Even we go back to Juneteenth of this year over at the park, Stoner Park in West Akron, we had a young man shot over there, just at the Juneteenth Festival. There were no police officers there,” said the councilwoman.
Mosley, who co-chairs the public safety committee, says lawmakers want to make it mandatory to have security at large events of 100 people or more at city parks.
Mayor Dan Horrigan’s office released a statement reading, in part:
“Our teams are actively working through what additional guidelines might be needed to better ensure the safety of those in attendance. We also know that it may increase the financial burden on those seeking to utilize public space and could cause more strain on our safety forces which are already stretched thin.”
“I think it’s a good idea. I mean, anytime you have an event with as many kids as we do that come out, it’s always good to have someone around who is safeguarding the area,” said Prince Tyson Gully, coach of the South Rangers JV football team.
He’s all for the council’s proposal.
“If we have cops and off-duty people that want to help with the community, that’s the best thing for us,” Gully said.
“We need to not have people paying for it because some people can’t afford to have off-duty officers,” said parent Donny Brooks, also creator of the Akron Baseball Project.
He agrees with extra security, but worries about the cost.
“We should have it where we have at least maybe four or five officers on each corner of the field to be observing to see if there’s any activity that looks suspicious, that looks threatening and stop it before it could escalate,” Brooks said.
Councilwoman Mosley says the next step is to discuss the proposal with Akron’s safety director and iron out specifics.
Mosley expects that the plan will eventually become an enforceable city ordinance.