Investigator: Crimes at parks and pools

CLEVELAND -- Last month at Thrush Park on Cleveland's west side, 22-year-old Terrance Jackson was fatally shot after a brief argument with a group of men. Two days later, a teen was shot in the foot while being confronted by a few juveniles on bicycles at the same park.

The 15-year-old survived after receiving treatment at MetroHealth Medical Center. "This is the first time in my 14-year council career that something like this has happened," said Ward 11 Councilman Dona Brady. " It was a very isolated incident."

The incidents caused the West Deninson Little League to temporarily halt play in their season, after parents and coaches raised concern over safety in the park. The Cleveland Division of Police First District Detectives are investigating the shootings. No arrests have been made.

Shortly after the gunfire, Brady along with police, mounted a second security camera in the park and removed a large tree that prevented a clear view of both incidents.

Brady purchased the camera from her council ward fund, along with nine others that she has positioned around her area. Now, the games have resumed and police officers make routine patrols to ensure a presence in the community.

A Channel 3 investigation into violence at Cleveland's parks, swimming pools and recreation centers found a wide variety of reported crimes from 37 locations in the City.

Police records indicate since 2013, 1,036 incident calls to Cleveland Police for emergencies from these locations. 316 of the calls or 30% were for burglary.

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Topping the list is the Zelma George Recreation Center & Pool at 3155 MLK Drive.

The facility had 152 calls for police help including calls for theft, child endangering, & a sex offense. Next, across the street, Luke Easter Park & Pool with 102 calls.

Police have responded to incidents of drag racing, shots fired, and fighting, among others. "Luke Easter Park is the largest urban park in the State of Ohio, it's 114 acres and it's a lot of room to do a lot things good or bad, " explained Councilman Zach Reed who oversees the top two in his ward.

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Rounding out the top five are Collinwood Recreation Center (76), Cudell (56), and Michael Zone (56). "The top 5 parks are not under surveillance," added Reed. "We are still not using technology to better police our parks, and pools to make our streets safe."

Reed believes the absence of cameras only promotes and enhances violence and crime. He's looking for help from Mayor Frank Jackson and other city leaders.

"Do we have enough funding to put cameras in every park and rec center? No sir, we do not," said Public Works Director Michael Cox. "It does not stop things from happening in parks, playgrounds or the street. They still rob banks and every bank has a camera". Reed's contention is that too much focus from City Hall is concentrated to concerns downtown and protecting people and businesses along Public Square. "There're hell-bent on insuring cameras that are brought into the city are brought in downtown, but uptown your're on you're on your own," Reed passionately said.

"There should be a surveillance camera every 500 yards," said Daniel Lewis of Cleveland. He brought his children to the Luke Easter pool on a sunny summer day, unaware of the lack of surveillance cameras.

"There should not be an incident around here with nobody saying 'we didn't see it ' or we didn't know what happened." Other parents are worried because of the amount of children that frequent those places. "I'm shocked there are no cameras," said Bruce Jones of Cleveland. "I hope they fixed that soon because we have to protect these kids out here."

BY THE NUMBERS: 2013 Cleveland Police incident calls to pools, parks and rec centers

Follow WKYC's Investigator Tom Meyer on Twitter: @TomMeyerWKYC


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