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HAMILTON: Kicking Kids Out of Parks Will Likely Cause Greater Problems

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By: Ken Hamilton

The story started with shots being fired at a youth league football game. It was only after a fight had broken; however, they weren’t fired until after the police arrived.

“It was one of the opposing team’s parents who had discharged the weapon,” reported the local televisions new station, who also reported that the man was arrested and charged with mishandling a firearm. “The man … his son and the family are banned indefinitely from the league.”

No one was hurt, but something similar did happen here in Niagara Falls. However, the ending was unlike the above story that was reported by television station WBNS-10 in Columbus OH, only two years ago.

And at this very time of the year.

And it could not have happened at a worse time for Niagara Falls.

Apparently, with the 2020 Niagara Falls budget looking to cut the number of police officers available on the streets, now is not the time to scale back on youth activities. That really suggests that city officials aren’t necessarily seeing 20-20 in this case.

Here, it took place behind Hyde Park’s Sal Maglie baseball stadium. Critics close to youth services said that have had their concerns with the challenges that the Cataract City Hurricane Youth Football League. Those challenges may not only have led up to what was apparently an adult from Buffalo firing off five rounds from a pistol in his not-well-thought-out but effective attempt to break up a mass after-game melee between other adults. It happened before the police arrived. 

City officials pulled the Hurricanes’ permit in what is thought to be the second largest city park in the state.  Officials said that the pulling of the permit was done for the safety of the young padded and helmeted boys who were playing the game and their young cheerleaders.

While no one wants a kid or anyone else to take a stray bullet, the purpose of youth league activities is to give those self-same kids an opportunity to burn off energy in the safety of- and under the tutelage of- organized adult supervision in a place of safety.

While no place in the city should be more secure than a city park, in an unsolved case of a few years ago, body parts were indeed found just a stone’s throw away in a black garbage bag off Duck Island. As long as there are people, tuff happens – and youth league sports are a big part of reducing the chances of most of those kids doing the shooting.

City officials reportedly said that they would help the league find someplace else to play their remaining games outside of the park but that would likely lessen the security that the officials said that they wanted the kids to have; maybe even eliminate it.

As the city looks at cutting police officers, it must also realize that youth services, such as leagues like the Hurricanes, are a part of the public safety portfolio; if not, then a Police Athletic League would not have been formed — a program that actually reduces the need for so costly of a police force. How would moving the event elsewhere in the city would reduce police responses and place the youth in greater safety zone, leaving us to wonder what it is that the city officials really are trying to avoid.

There’s no question that Niagara Falls is a very difficult city to govern; and I believe that administrators are doing the very best that they can within the confines of budgetary constraints. Our over-worked and under-staffed DPW do a fantastic job in maintaining the city’s parks, and their stress levels just have to be extremely high; hence the rashness of the decision. 

Nonetheless, one would have to ask that if someone fired five rounds up into the air after a college team baseball game inside of the stadium would city officials the offer to help find someplace else for those collegians to play?

Of course not! Our Constitution itself implies that its purpose is not to create a Heaven on Earth; instead, just simply a more perfect union. In our city’s local case, our aim should be a more perfect union between the decisions of both policy-makers and their constituents – the heaven will follow in the smile of a child.


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