City officials plan to increase police presence and security at all city facilities in wake of Saturday night’s fatal shooting at Propst Park.
Police officers were dispatched to Propst Park shortly before midnight on Saturday. During a birthday party at the park’s activity center, which is located in the northeast corner, a fight broke out in the building. The fight continued outside in the parking lot, where shots were fired into a crowd and ended with the death of 16-year-old Arykah Patrice White.
Two councilmen told The Dispatch on Monday the city needs to add security cameras at the activities center. Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens said he hopes to also amend the times citizens are allowed to rent public park facilities.
“I don’t know the total procedures, but midnight is a little late,” Mickens said. “Personally, I think we should shut it down by 10 p.m. We need to be gone and out of there by then. (Councilman Bill) Gavin has always said nothing good happens after midnight. I have a tendency to believe what Bill was saying. I think we can adjust the curfew, I’m sure that will be one of things we will do.”
Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones said no cameras are installed at the activities center currently and elsewhere.
“We’re looking into getting cameras,” Jones said. “I think it’s long overdue. I think we need cameras, not just there but at other areas around the city. We need to be able to see what’s going on.”
City parks director Greg Lewis declined to comment on or provide policies for renting parks facilities. Likewise, Public Information Officer Joe Dillon did not provide rental policy information to The Dispatch by press time.
Police Chief Fred Shelton did not provide further comment on the investigation Monday. However, in a statement posted on Facebook, Mayor Robert Smith addressed the investigation and the need to look into city policy changes.
“As Mayor, I hope it brings comfort to know that I have mandated the Police Department to increase patrolling and securing the surrounding areas to provide a safe and secure presence while attending our City Community Centers,” Smith’s post reads. “Immediate procedures for using the City facilities will be revised and upgraded to include security cameras surrounding the exterior and interior of the premises, active police presence and patrolling, the enforcement of proper operations of hours, and appropriate activities.”
Smith’s statement also said the police identified “persons of interest” from Saturday night’s shooting.
“The City of Columbus extends deep expressions of sorrow to the family of Arykah Patrice White,” Smith’s statement reads. “May you find comfort in knowing you are not alone at this time, you are surrounded by those who care for you and we are here for you.”
The city installed cameras downtown in 2017 following a shooting incident outside The Princess nightclub on Fifth Street. After a shooting on Thanksgiving morning that year outside Trotter Convention Center, the city installed more cameras in the area.
“Some things have been discussed in the past as far as putting cameras,” Mickens said. “I know we did it downtown and I think it helped. We’ve got to find the grants or funds or cut what we need to cut to make sure our citizens are safe. It’s a tragedy what happened (Saturday). My heart goes out to the family. … Safety is definitely No. 1. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to respond. We’ve got to come up with a good solution to benefit the entire city.”
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin declined to comment because he was out of town over the weekend and wanted more time to gather information. Charlie Box, of Ward 3, was unavailable for comment and Ward 1’s Gene Taylor did not return calls for comment by press time.
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