Parks and Recreation Department is solution to crime woes

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Every once in a while, somebody is riding down South Street or walking in that area, tending to their own business, when “bang, bang, pop, pop” is heard. Someone has been shot at, or shot, or maybe some juvenile delinquent just discharged his nine in the air for entertainment purposes.

Whatever the cause, we need to take action now, and one way for us to get involved is to contact our City Council members and demand that they use the city’s Parks and Recreation Department as a deterrent to crime on Franklin’s streets.

Our Parks and Recreation Department has many strong points, and to meet our crime prevention needs, we must use this department as a deterrent to juvenile delinquency; we must build on our strengths and eliminate our weaknesses.

Concerned and scared citizens should immediately call their council representatives and demand that:

■ The city develop a policy utilizing sports and recreation as crime-prevention tools.

■ The city direct the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee to research and recommend programs to the city that will deter crime. Some major cities sponsor late-night intramural basketball games with documented reduction in property vandalism as a result. Maybe this would help here. The committee should look at this and search for other programs.

■ The city appoint ex-officio representatives to the Advisory Committee from the school system, Social Services Department, Housing Authority, Police Department and the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library.

■ The Advisory Committee research and develop strategies for the acquisition of grants and the development of partnerships. The committee can also make recommendations on the feasibility of community partnerships with organizations such as STOP, the local juvenile court and Rawls Museum Arts in Courtland.

It is common knowledge that the city doesn’t have any money, yet we need to immediately take action, and action requires money. Well, when you don’t have any money, what do you do? Answer: Develop partnerships with those who do — or can do.

For example, the STOP organization is going to receive stimulus funds to the tune of $8 million over the next two years for its programs. Parks and Recreation can and should partner with this organization.

Years ago I set up an after-school tutorial program at the Martin Luther King Center. The city supplied the center, the Franklin City Schools bussed the kids to the center, STOP paid for the main teacher, the Sportsman Club paid the teacher assistant and the U.S. Department of Agriculture covered the food. I was able to obtain support from these groups because they could see a need, and they were able and willing to step in and help our community. This is a similar situation.

We must step up as individuals and volunteer to do whatever we can to fight crime. We must also contact our City Council members and convince them to get off their hands. Tell these leaders that partnerships give us greater access to talent and resources and that necessity demands that the city pursue this reasonable course of action.

With the right partnerships, our community will be able to acquire grants for programs that can teach our children civic-mindedness, volunteerism and job training. We must not wait, hesitate or waver in our determination to stop gangs or normal youthful foolishness on our streets.

Call your City Council representative today and tell him or her that we can make a difference together through good planning, partnerships and the implementation of policies and plans based on a clear vision of using city recreation as a crime-prevention tool.