Concerned Parents Discuss Safety at Dothan Park With City Leaders

By: Ryan Rodig Email
By: Ryan Rodig Email

"Youth baseball and softball is sacred in Dothan," says District 5 City Commissioner Taylor Barbaree.

That explains why around 20 parents showed up to voice their concerns to city leaders in the city commission chambers Friday. Representatives with the Dothan Police Department and Leisure Services were in attendance with city commissioners.

Wednesday a mother was robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot near the tennis courts at Wiregrass Park. Police say it is an isolated incident, but parents still have concerns about the place they bring their kids to participate in sporting activities.

"Anybody could pop out of the woods at any time with a hoodie on and that's the concern with all the people here," said Kathryn Senn. "It's not fenced in; it is not a complex that is safe for our girls."

One parent says some sports activities see less police presence than others.

"There's nobody over there patrolling in those areas or there is not a police presence during the tennis matches and you probably haven't been aware of that yet," added Kevin Moulton.

"The lighting is terrible," says Chris Suddrath. "You are coming down streets that are dark, with people wandering around in the street. It is not conducive to a safe environment."

Parents suggested that lights be improved at the park, on streets leading to the park, and that fences completely enclose the park. One parent even suggested shutting the park down until the "problems cooled down."

Dothan Police Captain Larry Draughon says he grew up around that park and still has a mother that lives nearby.

He says crime statistics show no increase in activity in that area. Draughon says the police department has dedicated more officers to foot patrol and close patrol the park grounds, however.

Leisure Services Director Elston Jones says the morning after the incident he was in Police Chief John Powell's office to discuss what could be done so the incident didn't repeat itself.

"We put two additional police officers in the park last night, Jones said. "We moved the DSI security guard from the building to the park last night. We brought two additional staff people last night to have more presence in the park."

And Capt. Draughon says Dothan Police doesn't need any more incentive to catch criminals or prevent crimes from happening.

"One incident is intolerable, Draughon said. "I will tell you we have patrols over there. We have worked with leisure services in scheduling to have officers there and they are doing everything that is humanly possible," Draughon said.

City Commission Taylor Barbaree asked City Manager Mike West to look into specific ways to improve lighting and fencing at the park, to increase safety. West said he would check into it and get back to commissioners.

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