In 2008, the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association worked in conjunction with KABOOM to restore the children’s’ play area at Stallings Playground which was negatively impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Now, the threat of crime is forcing parents to keep their children away from the playground.
Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS — On a Friday evening after school, a Fairgrounds Triangle area playground sat empty.
While large groups of youngsters were on the basketball courts and in the pool area of Stallings Playground, none was in the playground or park area of the facility.
Neighbors like Kermit Roberson said they won’t allow their children to play there.
“My impression is that it’s a place of growing concern,” said Roberson. “We have been noticing elements of violence and crime appearing in the neighborhood.”
Roberson said two gun arrests Thursday evening at Stallings Playground are just the tip of the iceberg.
New Orleans police officers arrested Julius Dunn, 18, and Chevroun Smith, 20, for illegally carrying the weapons in their waistbands. An anonymous caller alerted police to suspicious men in the area.
Last summer, a shooting in the playground wounded several people.
But Roberson said his biggest concern is what happens in the playground every day.
“Drinking in the park, smoking illegal substances,” said Roberson.
Neighbors said grown men drink in the park throughout the day, and they believe that spurs crime.
“I don’t want to put my children in an unsafe environment,” said Roberson.
A NORD sign posted outside Stallings Playground says no alcohol is allowed on the premises, but city officials say there’s no way to enforce that because New Orleans has no laws banning alcohol from playgrounds.
“If people are drinking there all day long, it’s got to be causing problems,” said District A council member Susan Guidry.
After a push from neighbors, NORD officials are supporting a possible ordinance that would ban alcohol from NORD playgrounds, with the exception of NORD sanctioned activities, making the posted rules enforceable. It’s something Guidry plans to begin drafting soon.
“We’re going to keep trying until we have children in that park,” said Guidry.
But a longtime Stallings coach believes the problems don’t stem from the regulars who drink on the premises, but rather, young people who come from other neighborhoods.
“Most of the guys around this area are guys I done coached,” said Ortegas Coleman, who has been a volunteer coach at Stallings for nearly 20 years. “So they know, no tolerance in the neighborhood, Coach not having that… We can’t control the ones that come in from other neighborhoods, we can’t control that.”
Still, Coleman said he would be in favor of banning alcohol at NORD playgrounds.
And with liquor stores on both ends of Stallings, parents like Roberson say they hope the alcohol, drugs, and violence they’ve seen at the playground are cleaned up soon.
“Laws are one thing, but enforcment will be the key,” said Roberson