AIKEN, SC (WJBF) – There are security concerns at the Odell Weeks Activity Center after emergency call boxes were removed from several areas around the track.
Gary Little enjoys the day with his grandson Seb at the Odell Weeks Activities Center. It’s a two to three times a week trip for them and so far it’s all been fun and games on the playground. “We live in apartments, so he runs here, there and everywhere,” Little told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken bureau chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.
But now the sense of security for some who visit the center has been removed. “I feel like they have to bring them back for the safety of the kids and also for the parents here,” added Toni Hollingsworth. “We need it for emergencies here, just in case, because some people don’t carry phones, don’t carry babies and things like that,” she added.
Four emergency call boxes have been removed from four different areas around the runway. If you have an emergency, you could press the button and it would call public security to come for any emergency you may have. It’s like the ones seen on the USC-Aiken campus. “We have a lot of kids here who come to this neighborhood and love to play,” Hollingsworth added. “I feel like this is a safety issue for our community,” Chris Charlton said.
Charlton first noticed the boxes had been removed after a race on the track. He thought they were enhanced because of the orange cones, but that’s not the case. “These boxes do two things, they provide us with a security blanket for those who walk on this track. There was a bright blue light on top to probably deter crime. The other aspect is that it gave a sense of security in an emergency,” he said.
City leaders say the reasons for the removal of the boxes are lack of use and outdated technology – not money. “We’re more concerned about safety because we could have left them in place and we knew they’re outdated,” City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh said. “We’re concerned about safety and the fact that we took them down, I think, illustrates that,” he added.
Odell Weeks won’t be the only place without emergency boxes. “We have walking paths in the smaller parks and they don’t have call boxes,” Bedenbaugh said.
NewsChannel 6 spoke with several other people about removing the security feature. “I thought it was a bad move because they needed a lot of security here so people would feel comfortable walking or jogging day and night, late at night,” said Carl Allen: “I think they should be put back in place if possible,” he added.
“I think that maybe removes a security barrier, but I don’t know to what extent it’s been used in the past,” Bill Winn added.
Meanwhile, for Chris Charlton, the change may affect the way he and his group practice in the region. “We don’t normally exercise with phones, but maybe that’s a protocol we need to adjust just because that box is missing,” Charlton added.
There are no plans to replace them. “It’s one of those situations where you have limited dollars and resources and you’re trying to maximize that,” according to Bedenbaugh. “It’s a tough decision, but at the moment we think it’s the best approach,” he added.
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