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Police to beef up patrols at park

Police patrols will be increased near Copeland Park, where local youths attacked a family trapped in a car, Crystal River Police Chief Roger Krieger said Wednesday. Officers already keep a close eye on the park and surrounding streets, the chief said. He said he also will ask community members to help keep the peace around the park.

Krieger and Citrus County Sheriff Charles Dean emphasized that the incident was an isolated event and does not indicate that the problems with teens in the city are becoming significantly worse.

Jim Langston, a teacher at Crystal River High School and former auxiliary police officer, agreed.

"I think this was a spur-of-the-moment thing," he said.

The incident began when a group of at least 10 teens blocked the Thacker family's car Saturday night at NE Fourth Street and NE Ninth Avenue.

The youths, some of whom wielded a golf club, glass bottles and stones, shattered the car's windshield, back and side windows, and jumped on the car, Crystal River police reported.

One 18-year-old man and two juveniles, ages 17 and 16, have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Gary and Angela Thacker, their 10-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter and her 13-year-old friend were not seriously injured.

Krieger said the group had a "mob mentality" that gave individual members the courage to act violently. The group aimed to be mischievous and succeeded, he said.

The chief compared the group with youngsters in northern states who throw snowballs at cars _ sometimes breaking windows _ and then running away.

Trouble certainly isn't new to that area, either, Krieger pointed out. During the summer, police and sheriff's deputies arrested several people for causing trouble near Copeland Park.

The teens, in turn, complained that police were harassing them.

Krieger added that the park area has been quiet for the past two months, since police met with the teens and other residents.

"There's no problem brewing," said Frederick Copeland, the driving force behind the park.

Those involved in the situation, are "just prone to mischief. . . . They're just looking for something to do, just looking for some fun," he said.

Langston said the city's plans to build a bypass road through that section of town could make the situation worse as more outsiders come through the area.

"What I've heard from the kids is that, this is our street, this is our community, this is our own area," he said.

"There are areas in every town that you don't go. . . . It's a shame it has to be that way, but that's reality. Some people stake out their territory."

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