July 24, 2019 11:23:03 AM
Saturday's tragic shooting death of a teen at a Propst Park event is, first and foremost, a profound personal loss for the victim's family.
But the implications go far beyond the grief we share with the family of 16-year-old Arykah White. Police arrested a suspect, identified as 17-year-old Curtis Lathan, in the shooting death, which occurred around 11:30 p.m. after a fight broke out during a birthday party held at the facility.
Our court system will handle the legal questions surrounding this tragedy, but White's family will never be made whole.
For the community, the death should be a call to action.
City officials have responded by suggesting changes intended to help prevent future incidents of this nature - everything from reviewing rental policies, providing more police presence and patrols during events at the park, closing the park earlier in the evening and installing surveillance cameras.
The city has taken similar aggressive measures in the wake of past shootings, and we believe they are generally right in their approach.
That Saturday's shooting took place at Propst Park is particularly unfortunate because it fuels a narrative held by some, including some members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, that Propst Park is a dangerous place to be.
That narrative was one of the reasons supervisors stated for ending its inter-local agreement with the city for a combined Parks & Recreation Department.
As the county pursues plans for its own softball/baseball complex west of the river, there remains legitimate concern over the impact that will have on Propst Park.
The county's planned complex is located in a sparsely populated area. To be viable, it will need to draw kids from throughout the county. It is likely that many of those kids who have, until now, played in leagues at Propst Park will instead opt to participate in the county's programs.
The extent of that exodus will be influenced by their perceptions of Propst Park, particularly on the subject of safety.
Even though examples of safety issues during league play at Propst Park have been exceptionally rare, this most-recent high-profile shooting death only adds fuel to the perception that Propst Park is a dangerous place for children.
We support the measures the city is taking to help prevent tragedies like the one that unfolded Saturday.
But among many, the damage to Propst Park's reputation cannot be repaired.
That's not the tragic part of the story, but it is an unfortunate blow to our community.
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