Really quick, before we head to Atlanta and I go off the grid (as off the grid as I ever get), I wanted to sit down and write a quick note… a note that hopefully all of my City Council friends will read… but more importantly, all of the friends that live in the City of Greenville will read and get involved with.
Recently there has been an uptick in crime around Falls Park and on The Swamp Rabbit Trail. I say there has been an uptick, I’m not exactly sure if that is correct, or if we are just hearing more about it. Regardless, much has been made about what the City of Greenville should do about it… and it looks like their leading idea is to close the park at 9pm. Well… here’s my problem with that….
The City has spent and still spends tons of tax payer money on Falls Park, which I am fine with. I love the park. I go to it often and when I am sitting on a swing looking up at that bridge I tend to open up a bit more.. calm down a lot.. and never once have I felt unsafe. Yes I have been approached several times by people asking for money, but I normally say no and they go on their merry way, to the next person.
The City, lead by Mayor Knox White, choose this area for its beauty and charm. Mayor White had a vision, regardless of how bad the area was at the time, regardless of how overrun by crime the falls area was… he had a vision that no one else could see. So why now, after 9 years would the City give up on the park after 9pm?
To me, the by closing the park at 9p, that is exactly what City is basically doing.. surrendering the park to criminals after 9pm… basically saying “we can’t protect the park so stay out of it”. That makes no sense to me…
Falls Park brings visitors into our city. Is it smart to warn people, “hey, our park get’s sketchy after 9, so, you know, stay out of it”. Is it smart to say to the few bad eggs that have committed crimes, “hey, you know what, you win, we give up, the park is yours after 9pm”. Will there be police patrolling the park to make sure no one is in it? If so, could those same officers not patrol the park while it is open to make sure criminals stay out? I am in the park a lot.. and it is extremely rare to see any uniformed officers in the actual park. They all congregate at the entrance and talk but never actually patrol in the park itself.
From a financial standpoint, wouldn’t it make more sense to hire extra officers to patrol IN the park instead of making it off limits? My understanding is that Chief Wilfong (who I am a fan of by the way), has asked that the City fund 8 additional officers. My question there is, what are those officers going to do if the park is closing at 9pm? Why do we need extra officers if the solution is to just lock the park down?
I understand the point of view of closing the park at 9pm. I just think, as someone who frequents the park and as a taxpayer and voter in the City, that there HAS to be a better option.