By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks said this week that city police, in response to a high volume of complaints about unruly teenagers, are now conducting heavy patrols of the parking lot that is part of the small city park at Rivercane.
Brooks said he recently hired a retired sheriff’s deputy on a part-time basis to patrol the area — behind Taco Bell, Hardee’s and Sonic— at night, especially on weekends. The main reason will be to keep teenagers or groups of young adults from hanging out there and stirring up trouble.
“We have an officer that I just hired to work that area because of the problem with kids parking there,” the police chief said. “We’ve had a lot of problems with teenagers busting bottles and stuff like that. We’ve had fights out there; we’ve had property damage. Every time the city fixes the light out there, it’s damaged again by people shooting or throwing stuff.
“That is not going to be a hangout area anymore. It’s unnecessary for (teens) to be out there, so we’re going to move them on.”
The new patrol officer apparently took things a little farther than Brooks intended, as several parking lot patrons have complained they were told to vacate the area, even though they parked there intending to use the walking track or to just relax and eat a meal.
The officer reportedly told each that Poarch Band of Creek Indians officials had requested the increased police presence.
“That’s city property and has absolutely nothing to do with Poarch,” Brooks said. “I don’t know why he would say that, but I will get it corrected. I probably need to revisit that and let him know that as long as people are just there enjoying the park or what have you, it’s okay. A lot of people get their food at one of the restaurants and go park in that lot to eat.”
The decision to station an officer in that area was made after sporadic patrol just didn’t work.
“That is an area where, in the past, we patrolled when we had time,” he said. “Now we’ve got a full-time officer, and we monitor it real heavy, especially on weekends. We’ve had complaints from both business owners and also calls that disrupt everything, and we have to run out there and check them out.
“We don’t want more than three or four kids out there loitering, drinking, fighting, doing maybe some other things kids shouldn’t be doing. They are not going to do it there anymore.”
He added that the police department is trying to make sure the area is being used by the people for which it was designed.
“That’s a parking lot for people who enjoy walking around the track, or those who eat a quiet meal out there,” he said. “That’s basically what that (parking lot) is for. It is not designed for teenagers to sit out there and basically be teenagers.
“They gang up and loiter around some of those restaurants out there, damaging property and leaving a big mess for the city to clean up. That’s not happening anymore.”