Sex in Columbia park causing calls for child safety zones - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Sex in Columbia park causing calls for child safety zones

Jessica Canaday (Source: Columbia Police Department) Jessica Canaday (Source: Columbia Police Department)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A surveillance camera in the middle of Roy Lynch Park caught something on Monday morning that may shock some but not attorney Wayne Ridgeway.

His law office borders the park and Ridgeway has seen a lot of illicit activity take place in the park.

"When I hear about sexual activity going on under that picnic shelter," Ridgeway said, "I'm not surprised at all."

Columbia Police said 29-year-old Jessica Canaday was charged with exposing herself in the public park and allegedly having sex with a man underneath a picnic shelter in broad daylight in plain view of passing cars and walking neighbors. Canaday was later found and jailed thanks to the surveillance footage.

"If the folks on council could see what I see on a daily basis," Ridgeway said, "what I see everyday are folks congregating under this picnic shelter that are not here for the monkey bars or the swings. I don't' see a lot of young families or folks with kids using this park."

Ridgeway said he has seen fights, smoking, and lots of drinking. All of these activities are prohibited in the park. He also found a contraceptive wrapper and human excrement as well. Those are among the reasons he is pushing to make the entire park a "child safety zone."

"The child safety zone, in my opinion, is a no-brainer as it relates to this park and other parks at the city," Ridgeway said.

Just days ago, the Columbia City Council passed an ordinance that would create the safety zones. These areas would be off-limits to anyone over the age of 12 who is not a child's guardian.

Critics believe the safety zones could lead to discrimination and say police already have the tools they need.

In this case, police made an arrest in roughly a day without a safety zone. But Ridgeway believes a safety zone would have an effect.

"If a sign goes up and the City of Columbia is committed to enforcing it just like you would a curfew in Five Points or whatever else you may have for those sorts of measures," Ridgeway said, "I think that folks will get the message."

Ridgeway isn't sure where all the adults in the park are coming from, but he knows they're affecting their business.

At this point, Councilman Cameron Runyan said he's pushing forward with a proposal and hopes to have it on the City Council's agenda within the next month.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

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