1. News

Neighbors: Close Bayhead skate park in Largo

LARGO — Crime and other problems at Bayhead Action Park have become so bad that some neighbors are calling for more police and that the skate park be closed.

"My children are not allowed in the park, the beautiful park you built," neighbor Eileen Pettit recently told Largo commissioners. "Ultimately, I would like to see the skate park removed."

Pettit said she has lived in the area for 25 years and has never seen the level of crime that's happening now. Pettit said she had requested a list of police calls to the park over the preceding year and a half and found 438 calls to the police – about "23 a month, which, in my opinion, is too many."

Most of the calls on Pettit's list were classed as "patrol checks," but the list included other calls classed as disturbance, robbery, theft, battery, narcotics/drugs, criminal mischief, trespass and burglary. In late May, a jogger was attacked by a crowd after he called 911 to report a brawl at the skate park.

Julie Willis, who lives next door to the park, said she witnessed the attack on the jogger. Even more recently, she said, there was a stabbing. The person accused of the crime ran into her yard about midnight. The Largo police canine unit was also there, she said.

"We've got skateboarders out there smoking marijuana, rolling joints, giving, sharing of marijuana," Willis said.

Willis added that the problems at Bayhead are not limited to the skateboard section of the facility.

"We're having trouble with volleyball players urinating, right out in public. ... Or volleyball players coming into the bushes, the women, using the bathroom there," Willis said.

Willis said she doesn't allow her children in the park: "I'm afraid to let my kids go across the street and on the bike path. … I'm getting to the point that I'm concerned for my family's safety."

She, too, called for more police presence.

Adding her voice to the pleas for help was Tammy Vallone, who proposed a police substation be built at the park and the formation of a teen program to help monitor the kids and keep them out of trouble.

Vallone suggested a longer-term solution of improving facilities to encourage more traffic into the park. More people could help make it safer.

It is unclear what action the city intends to take. Commissioner Jamie Robinson said he would talk to the police chief. And Samantha Fenger asked for more comprehensive police statistics that would include the area around Bayhead to see the true effect on the neighborhood.

Bayhead, 375 Seminole Blvd., opened in July 2013. It is a multi-use facility with volleyball and basketball courts, skate and bike freestyle area, and an asphalt trail. It also houses Dog Bone paw park.