Williamston Town Council hears concerns about unsupervised teens in Mineral Spring Park

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During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council heard from three Palmetto Middle School teachers with concerns about unsupervised teens in Mineral Spring Park.
Each had concerns about violence, vandalism and other illicit activity taking place in the park, mostly by unaccompanied and/or unsupervised teens.
They offered suggestions including having an age restriction for unsupervised children in the park, increasing patrols, cameras, a phone or signal and more positive recreational programs.
Mayor Rockey Burgess agreed that it is a pressing concern. Burgess said there have been several incidents involving unsupervised or unattended children/teens, some not from the area. One involved a teen with a firearm. The firearm was reported stolen in Seneca, he said. Another involved fighting among teens from Easley and Greenville. There have been incidents involving twelve and thirteen year olds.
Burgess said the town could look at a curfew or age restrictions, however a fifteen year old can legally drive. “There is a legal issue,” he said.
“Parents need to step up,” he added.
The mayor said the town recently passed an ordinance that allows anyone causing a disturbance in the park to be placed on trespass notice, for life. “If they are causing problems and placed on trespass notice, they are not allowed to come back. If they do they will be referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice.”
Recently fourteen juveniles were placed on trespass notice after an incident that began at McDonalds, moved to the park, he said.
Mayor Burgess said there have been incidents involving juveniles engaging in sexual activity, drug use and firearms.
“What we don’t want to do is cast our students in a negative light,” he said.
The mayor said he recently met with a group of approximately fifty students from Palmetto Middle and Palmetto High to talk about some of the issues. One thing he hears is “there is nothing for them here”.
“We want to keep them here. Our children are our greatest assets,” he said.
Burgess said the town has made improvements to the basketball court and added the new pickleball court in Mineral Spring Park. Improvements are also planned for the Brookdale Park. “On weekends the park is full of people,” he said. “It is concerning that one individual could have a firearm. I share the same concerns.”
Councilman Lee Cole said, “Public safety is paramount concern. We have done things to encourage renovation and improvements to make the town walkable and provide public spaces. We want to invite people into our community. We will continue to give our police department the resources and equipment needed and competitive salaries.”
“We are going to continue to take proactive steps and have community policing,” Councilman Cole said. “Our police department can’t be the parents or babysitters, but they can have their presence known.”
One problem that was brought up was who to call if there is a situation in the park.
Mayor Bugess said the old phone number for the Williamston Police Department is no longer in service, but is still listed and shows when a Google or other internet search is made.
“At one time the Williamston Police Department had its own dispatch,” Burgess said. Now everything, fire, police, ems, is through Anderson County Dispatch. Persons who need to report a problem or situation should call (864) 260-4444. That number reaches the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department central dispatch. “Or you can call 911”, he said.
Burgess said the town has considered an emergency phone system, but the price is around $40,000 plus the monthly fee. He said there are cameras in the park which help.
“We just had three juveniles causing damage around the Amphitheater” which were caught on camera.
“We are working very hard to be inviting and welcoming,” the mayor said. “Some parents leave their kids unattended in a public park and think, “What could go wrong?” “You can’t do that these days, there is too much going on. You have to be involved in your kids life.”