People provide community reassurance

There have been two nasty incidents in two popular parks in South Leeds in recent months. First, the two swans were shot in Middleton Park at the end of November. Then a man, who almost certainly knew his attacker, was shot in the leg in Cross Flatts Park earlier this month.

What should our reaction be to these events? Some people are suggesting that we should stay away from the parks, but I would argue the opposite, that we need more people in the parks to make these incidents less likely.

I was struck, as I arrived at Cross Flatts parkrun last week to hand out newspapers, that a Police van had turned up in the park. Obviously, organisers spoke to officers to see why they were there and explain that there was a live event going on.

Apparently, the Police had turned up to offer community reassurance following on from the shooting. I’m afraid they didn’t offer much reassurance. Unable to drive around the park the officers declined to get out and walk around the park, but that’s not my main criticism.

Their presence drew attention to an isolated incident. Several visiting runners asked why the police were there and no doubt left thinking Cross Flatts Park was not a safe space.

Meanwhile 150 people running and walking around the park did offer reassurance to other members of the community.

The park, or any space, is safest when it’s busy. People who want to carry out anti-social or illegal acts do not want to be seem, so the more eyes in the place, the better.

Cross Flatts Park is mostly a very safe space especially during the daytime. It is patrolled by dog walkers; by the squadrons of Asian women taking their exercise after the school run; by the café in the Watsonian Pavilion; by the Parks staff removing litter and carrying out maintenance; by the people learning to ride a bike; and on Saturday and Sunday mornings by parkrunners.

Meanwhile in Middleton, the Yorkshire Evening Post published an article this week amplifying the concerns of a couple of un-named residents who are “too scared to walk their dogs” in Middleton Park anymore and say there’s been a “drastic” reduction in wildlife.

I walk my dogs in Middleton Park several days a week and I can assure you there are not hoodie-clad youths hiding behind every tree and that with the exception of the swans, the park still bustles with wildlife.

It may not be as busy as Cross Flatts (one its attractions for me) but I usually see other dog walkers and at the weekend I see cyclists in the woods. Have I seen motorbikes and quadbikes? Yes, but not often.

On the wildlife front I regularly see or hear jays, robins, wrens, blue tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, great tits, nuthatches, woodpeckers and buzzards. The ancient woodland is also home to a myriad of fungi species including jelly ears, chicken in the wood and birch polypore bracket fungi to name just a few.

I don’t doubt the residents’ genuine feelings towards Middleton Park, but the problem with the YEP article is that it just scares people from visiting. What we need to make the park safer, and particularly to make visitors feel safer, is more visitors.

So, if you haven’t visited one of our beautiful green spaces lately, make some time and go for a walk. But go when it’s likely to be busier and don’t go after dark.

 

Photo: Cross Flatts parkrun

 

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4 Replies to “People provide community reassurance”

  1. I think Middleton Park should have more wardens patroling and visible Police to make everyone feel safe A shooting is not something to be dismissed be it Humans or Animals. Middleton is alot bigger space than Crossflats and more hidden parts for scallies to roam about . Residents know and visitors talk to one another thetes more gone on with woldlife being armed than publicised just ask in the Visitor centre more Wardens visible to protect Public and Animals would be more assuring

  2. Cross Flatts Park has recently had a number of fires where people are setting alight, wheelie bins, branches etc. Last Friday (12 Jan) eight of the recently planted trees were broken off along with the stakes and burned on the nearby steps, just the day before a wheelie bin was burnt in the same place. It is probably only coincidence that this was in the same area that the shooting occurred but it nonetheless gives the impression that the park is not a safe place to be, especially at night.

  3. Re Cross Flatt’s park. I overheard a conversation that it was “Hood politics”, assuming it’s down to gangs, no doubt involving drugs.

    Not surprising as it’s a very deprived area. The council won’t put money into extra wardens into them as it’s too expensive for them and won’t have money coming in from Central government to find either.

  4. When a person is shot in Cross Flatts Park, wether it be an air pistol or a double barrelled shotgun, just yards away from a Primary school or children playgrounds further up the park, this is getting totally out of hand. When the culprit is found, he should be hauled before the courts and incarcerated for as long as possible.
    This could have been a MURDER. I, personally, have lived in the Cross Flatts area all my life, went to Cross Flatts School from 1955 to 1962, walked across the park every day to school, even as a youngster, played in the park with my friends and played football for my local team into my thirties without ever seeing a hint of trouble. Nowadays, how can anyone walk across the park, from one side to the other, knowing someone could be carrying a firearm of any description? The recent article in Januarys South Leeds Life says more people should enter the park, but the culprit is still out and about. He, or she, could still be there amongst the park runners, the walkers and dog walkers.
    Who is to know they will get home safely? It is getting to the point where a curfew needs putting in place, police need to patrol the area, split up gangs, stop early morning drinkers throwing bottles and cans on the grass, and generally make the park the lovely place it used to be. At the moment, it is fast becoming a NO-GO area, where no-one wants to take their children.

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