Concerns arise over child safety zone ordinance for Columbia par - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Concerns arise over child safety zone ordinance for Columbia parks

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Some days, Elmwood Roy Lynch Park can be a quiet setting, but neighbor Hawes Adams has seen days where it hasn't always been that way.

"Drinking sex in public, drug use," Adams listed. "We've found all kinds of evidence of those things taking place."  

However, the most concerning to Adams is sex offenders visiting the park. According to Adams, about 80 live within a mile.

"And about 90 percent of those who are on the registry are there because of an attempted lewd act or a lewd act against a child," Adams said.

The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance last week that creates child safety zones in city parks. Soon, all of Elmwood Roy Lynch Park and parts of others in Columbia would be off-limits to anyone over the age of 12 who is not a parent.

"This is a safeguard that provides another tool for law enforcement," Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis said.

The ordinance passed 3-2, but Councilwoman Tameika Issac Devine was one of the two who voted no. She says she doesn't see a safety issue.

"If the basis that you're questioning someone is because they're over 12 and in a park," Devine said, " I think that that really leads to discrimination."

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina agrees with Devine's perspective. In fact, they believe the ordinance does little to actually address safety and could make criminals out of older children.

"Yes, it discriminates against people who are not children on child playground equipment," Councilman Cameron Runyan said. "This is designed to protect areas that are designed for children to keep the integrity of those areas for children."

Runyan intends to push forward anyway. He says his attorney are working to put together an ordinance that would make all of Roy Lynch Park a child safety zone. Runyan says it's likely there will be ordinances to zone off parts of city parks as well.

"Possibly as soon as next month," Runyan said, "you could see ordinances coming up for public discussion, public comment, and first and second reading."

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