Guard at Patton Lane

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aldermen hear plea for better presence at park

By John Howell Sr.

Batesville’s mayor and aldermen at their Tuesday, April 19 meeting agreed to hire a private security guard to help monitor activity at Patton Lane Park.

The decision came late during the meeting during which a resident who lives near the park described “an extreme amount of drug use, gang affiliated disturbances; also we’ve had an extreme amount of people pulling weapons and things like that.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The resident said that he has children and doesn’t want to take them into the park with the activity that often occurs.

“The reason I’m here is …, I think that some kind of security is needed out there on a part-time basis, maybe, during the summer months,” he told the mayor and aldermen. “Somebody that’s out there patrolling two or three hours a day kind of watching the activity because it’s really become a nuisance,” the resident said.

“The park is a real nice place to go to; but it’s really just the people who are out there at that particular time. It’s between the ages of 12 and probably 24 years old,” the Patton Lane neighborhood resident continued. “It’s just now starting; it’s going to get worse; it’s going to progress throughout the summer,” the resident continued.

During further discussion, the neighborhood resident said that police usually respond promptly to calls about problems at the park.

“There are some more people like me in the community,” the resident said, who want to see the unlawful activity discouraged.

“The city can’t do everything, but if we could provide a guard, we’d like to have some kind of community watch, too,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said. “It’s going to have to be everybody working together to get this done,” he added.

Park and Recreation Department employees have also expressed concern about the need for additional security, Mayor Autrey continued.

Responding to a question from Aldermen Bill Dugger, the resident said that he recognized the people causing trouble as “pretty much part of the community.”

Dugger said that people in the community, “the parents and people who live around there — they don’t normally like to do it — they’re going to have to go and go and sign papers as witnesses for the police and all. Then they (police) can do something there even if they didn’t see it,” Dugger said.

“It really is a nice place, … but it’s getting a little crazy,” the resident said.

In a conversation with Alderman Ted Stewart following the resident’s remarks, it was agreed to withhold his name over concern about possible retaliation.

“We’ve got some concerned citizens; we just need more to turn out,” Stewart said.

Disturbance on Square

The city officials also continued their discussion of the recent disturbance on the Square that occurred after an event at The Eureka.

“What I saw the other night, I want the public to know that that’s not acceptable and we’re going to do whatever it takes to stop it,” said Alderman Stan Harrison.

City officials at an April 13 meeting viewed a police video of the disturbances that broke out on the Square after midnight, Sunday morning, April 9.

Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell described several possible legal avenues to prevent outbreaks of violence following Eureka events but told the elected officials that his recommendation would follow further research.

“Do we need to start a paper trail? Do we need to send a certified letter to the landlord?” Alderman Eddie Nabors asked.

“Whoever owns that property … needs to be notified of your displeasure as to what’s going on,” Mitchell said. “The next step would be if there’s no cooperation, maybe to pursue some sort of … complaint in chancery court to declare something a public nuisance,” Mitchell said.

Other options discussed to regulate activity at the Eureka include requiring a special use permit and requiring security for events.

“Another thing, the community has got to get involved also,” said Alderman Ted Stewart, “because 12, 13-year-old kids shouldn’t be out that time of night in the first place. … Why do you have all of these kids out at that time of night in the first place?” Stewart asked, referring to police reports youth involvement including the arrest of a 13-year old, during the April 9 melee.

“If you start making some of these parents accountable, that’s going to help this,” Stewart continued. “If you start putting something on their pocket, that’s going to do something.”

“I’m just embarrassed for the whole town,” Harrison said.

The mayor and aldermen instructed Mitchell to contact the building owner by mail and to recommend other action to curb activities at the Eureka that lead to violence.