One Huntsville Boys & Girls Club receives needed extra security from Huntsville Police Department
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Fights, questionable characters and the unknown; It’s not your ideal scenario when taking care of children of all ages. However, for the past four months, the Seminole Boys & Girls Club in Huntsville has been monitoring these issues right outside its back door.
This is the first year for the Boys and Girls Club to occupy the Westside Community Center on Earl St.
“It’s a great partnership that we have with the city,” explains Boys and Girls Club Director Juanita Gonzalez. “Because many of these are Huntsville Housing children and they are the main children that we serve.”
The center is a great upgrade for the program. The building is home to larger classrooms, break areas, a gym and spacious playground/park area. Every school day, the program takes great care of 95-115 children.
However, since the center used to only serve the community, many local residents still linger near the playground area. There are no dividers between the community, the facility playground or park area. This poses safety concerns for children and requires constant monitoring by staff.
“There have been fights that have broken out in the parking lot where the cops have had to be called,” shared Gonzalez . “People have urinated on the building. There are people who just come, and maybe are homeless or transient, they just sit and watch the children play. They also use our outlets outside the building”
The center has a close relationship with Huntsville Police Department, and Gonzalez has called on their immediate service a numerous times. This week, the organization reached out to Mayor Battle’s office about their concerns for the children and community safety. They were pleading for urgency to help the situation. Gonzalez has been requesting a fence
“Less than 12 hours after we reached out to Mayor Battle, he was here,” said Gonzalez.
The mayor visited the center twice on Tuesday. He walked the grounds with Gonzalez, and by that afternoon, two Huntsville Police Officers were posted there monitoring the park.
The officers were speaking to community members, homeless and others about how the park is only for children and parents who are using the play area.
“It is so comforting,” said Gonzalez, “To ensure that everybody is safe, everyone is having fun and everyone can utilize this facility in the proper manner.”
The Huntsville Police will have two officers on site each day from 2-8 p.m. for the next two weeks. After that time, the city will meet with the center to decide a future plan. A fence is a request from Director Gonzalez, but she wants it known that the park and playground will always be open for community children, and parents taking their kids to the park. The security will ensure a safer play time for all involved.