Dothan officials’ plan to broaden security efforts at city parks may be coming at an appropriate time, according to Dothan Police Department call data.
Calls for police assistance at Dothan’s major parks have increased during the past three years, though 2019’s numbers are currently on pace to drop slightly. DPD recently provided the Eagle police call data from 2016 through currently for James Oates, Westgate, Walton, Wiregrass, Doug Tew, and Eastgate parks, the Andrew Belle Recreation Center, and Water World. When factoring out normal police patrols, special assignments, or any community service responses, DPD officials fielded 299 calls in 2016, 330 calls in 2017 and 386 calls in 2018.
Through early April this year, DPD had responded to 87 calls from the public.
Very few of the calls involve violent crimes; data reflected one murder, one rape/sexual assault, two armed robberies, and 10 reported assaults in the period. The call log documented 13 reports of gunfire, and another 17 entries regarded fighting.
Property crimes constituted a sizable portion of the report, as 48 thefts and 30 cases of breaking and entering of a vehicle were reported. Police also responded to nine calls involving commercial burglaries, likely the breaking and entering of park facilities.
Disorderly conduct reports represented 61 of the calls.
About one-third of the calls were for suspicious activity, persons, or vehicles. According to Chief Steve Parrish, officers upgrade or change the description of those calls should criminal activity be detected.
Westgate Park led the way with the most calls, likely due to its high traffic volume, including 155 of the 259 suspicious vehicle reports alone. Seventeen of the 30 breaking and entering of vehicle calls occurred at Westgate, and another eight occurred at Water World inside Westgate Park.
Seven of the 13 gunshots fired reports were registered at Andrew Belle; three of those took place in 2016.
Thirty-nine of the 53 burglary alarm reports originated from Walton Park, though no commercial burglaries, breaking and entering of vehicles or thefts were recorded there.
The one murder, one rape/sexual assault, and two armed robberies occurred at Wiregrass Park.
The Dothan City Commission heard a request from Parrish and Dothan Leisure Services Director Elston Jones last week to implement the first phase of a more stringent security plan. The first phase includes upgrading the existing 75 security cameras and adding 75 to 80 more.
Commissioners could vote on the request as early as next week.