By Dustin Ensinger
Officials in Reynoldsburg plan to explore ways to beef up security in the city’s parks.
While officials said there are not major problems with crime in the city’s park system, vandalism, especially graffiti at the gazebo in JFK Park, has been an ongoing issue.
City Councilman Scott Barrett said he saw an incident of vandalism last month in the park and reported it to police.
“I think the fact that they are doing it in broad daylight, I think the risk of getting caught is pretty minimal,” Barrett said.
Police Chief Jim O’Neill said most of the reports of crime investigated in the city’s parks over the past 18 months were for suspicious activity, including 29 disturbances and 10 incidents involving drug activity, all for the use of marijuana.
Despite Barrett’s claim he had heard stories of more than marijuana use in the park, O’Neill said none of the incidents were for what he would consider “upper level drug activity.”
There have been no arrests for violent felonies at the city’s parks over the last 18 months, according to O’Neill.
“We had no robberies,” O’Neill said. “We had no rapes, anything like that.”
As far as overall crime, O’Neill said, “We have not seen what I would consider to be an upswing.”
Donna Bauman, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said there have been 10 to 12 incidents of vandalism at the park in the past year-and-a-half that were not reported to police because there were no suspects or even an idea of when the crime occurred.
There was an arrest made of vandalism at the JFK Park gazebo last month. The individual arrested is repainting the structure as part of his sentence for the crime.
O’Neill said he is considering assigning the department’s school resource officers to the city’s parks in summer months when students are out of school and incidents increase.
“By taking the people that recognize these kids, that gives us one more tool we can use,” he said.
Increased patrols in the parks are possible, but O’Neill said it will tax the department.
“We’re stretched kind of thin right now just on normal patrol,” he said.
City officials will continue to discuss ways to cut down crime in parks, and City Councilwoman Leslie Kelly reiterated there is no threat to citizens in those public spaces, despite the petty crime that occurs from time-to-time. Options could include additional cameras.
“There’s a lot of great things going on in our parks, too,” Kelly said.