JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- City parks are public spaces; places you're suppose to feel safe. But the past 30 days have produced at least two unfortunate incidents.
A 3-year-old at a family event was found dead in a dosing tank at Arlington's Bruce Park last month. Not too shortly afterward, a park goer was fatally stabbed in Riverside's Willowbranch Park. A suspect was arrested.
The issue of park security has had an impact on park use. Leigh Starnes lives near WIllowbranch, but prefers to walk to another a much smaller private park.
"We actually go a few blocks to a church with a nice playground because this park doesn't feel safe," Starnes said. "It is a shame to not come directly here."
During a Wednesday meeting of a special City Council committee on Parks and Recreation, maintenance and safety became the focal points.
Councilman Reginald Brown declared he is looking for ways to make city parks safer.
"I am not comfortable with the level of security in our parks," Brown said. "I believe we can do more."
Brown said safety concerns has a direct impact on who is using our parks.
"I believe one of the primary reasons folks don't attend our public parks is because they don't feel safe," he said.
Brown is proposing of calling for security cameras and better lighting.
"The money is there," he said. "We have the dollars. It is just a matter of priority."
More than 400 parks make up Jacksonville's park system. Brown said he expects the parks with the greatest needs would be first, but eventually he wants all parks to eventually have security cameras.
"If we're going to take pride in having the city with the largest park it comes with a price," Brown said "We should be prepared for it."
He said he would like to see it sooner than later.
"It is just time we make things happen," Brown said. "It is time we put people back in the parks, put cameras in the parks and lets get the kids out here playing."
He said he is asking the Parks and Recreation Department to complete an assessment of needs within the next 90 days.
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