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Parents say deadly shootings highlight dangers at some city parks

Families concerned about young adults taking over parks in evenings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Recent deadly shootings at city parks in Jacksonville have some parents crying foul, saying the parks are no longer safe places for their families in the evenings.

They say the parks are being hijacked by rowdy young adults later in the day.

But the chair of a task force looking into violent crime in Jacksonville told the I-TEAM that the city has to be careful not to place undue burdens on citizens with knee-jerk reactions meant to address crime.

“The thing we have to be careful about is doing something (just) to say we have done something,” Mark Griffin said. “I am afraid that a curfew and things like that sound good, but they impact the wrong people.”

In November, 20-year-old Lamonte Dabney was shot and killed at a playground near Spring Park Elementary School around 1:20 p.m. as children played nearby. The next month, 23-year-old Devontay Youmans was fatally shot at Yancey Park in Northwest Jacksonville, according to police.

And Thursday night, a 14-year-old and a 24-year-old father were fatally wounded and two other men were shot at another Northwest Jacksonville park.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office crime-mapping tool, in the last six months, more than 350 violent incidents, including assaults, homicides and weapon-related incidents, have been reported at just 10 Jacksonville parks. Of those, Clanzel T. Brown Park had the most incidents -- with 95.

JUMP to Interactive Map highlighting incidents at 10 city parks

Javar Priester, who was playing catch with his son Friday, said he feels safe at Yancey Park during the day, even though 11 incidents of violence have been reported there in the last six months. But he admitted it could be better, especially at night.

“I think there could be more police in the neighborhood at night. I really don’t see any policemen in the street unless there is something happening,” Priester said.

The I-TEAM asked to meet with the head of Jacksonville's parks department to talk about crime in the parks, but he has not responded to our request. Most of the city's parks close at sunset, but News4Jax was interested to know how that rule is enforced.

In the past, the city has said violence at parks is an issue for the Sheriff's Office to respond to.

Statistics on violence reported at 10 Jacksonville parks

Click on an icon to see statistics for that park:

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.