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'What makes that park so much more important?': Critics respond to city's plans for safer Smale Park

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Posted at 7:07 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 20:30:15-04

CINCINNATI — New safety measures are in place in Smale Park after a deadly shooting at Cincinnati’s Fourth of July celebration — but not everyone is pleased with the response.

Police said 16-year-old Milo Watson and 19-year-old Dexter Wright, Jr. died after they shot at each other around 10:48 p.m. Sunday. Investigators said three other teenagers were injured during the shooting.

There were no surveillance cameras in the park when the shooting happened, but police said they've asked to have monitoring devices installed for close to a year. Authorities said cameras were requested due to people partying and causing problems in the park after it is closed for the day.

RELATED: Police records show Smale Park is not typically a high-crime area

The city manager’s office said the city government has been installing surveillance cameras across Cincinnati for the past six months. WCPO is waiting for the parks department to confirm the installation timeline.

Cincinnati police Chief Elliot Isaac said 20 to 25 more officers will be added to weekend shifts. The additional units will bounce between districts, lending aid at crime scenes across the city.

“This team is not focused solely on crowd control, but if a district needs immediate assistance, they are readily available for whatever that may be,” Isaac said. “Our department’s biggest asset is our presence and by adding additional resources to help with visibility and deployment, our city will be a safer place.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to announce a collaboration project with CPD to curb gun violence.

Critics of the city's response said it’s unfair.

“What makes that park so much more important than the rest of these communities where everyone has children are living in?” said East Westwood resident Marcella Thompson.

Thompson’s son, Marcellus, is 8 years old. Wednesday marked his 25th night in the hospital after he was struck by bullets outside a busy convenience store June 12. During the same incident, 6-year-old Mishawn Elliot was shot in the legs and a bullet grazed a 7-year-old's shoe.

“I think people just look at high-crime areas, neighborhoods, and when they see a shooting they just say, ‘Oh, well. That was expected,'" said Cincinnati City Council member Betsy Sundermann. "Where, in Smale, they're not used to hearing that, and they say, ‘Oh my gosh! I go there with my family.’ So, I think that's why it's treated differently."

Sundermann, a former magistrate and prosecutor, lives on the West Side, where people are calling for more help to combat crime.

“I just hosted a public safety forum," she said. "You'll see in August I will be filing motions to address some of the safety concerns. But, specifically, that one block where the shooting took place. I'm trying to get the city to file a nuisance case on Reams Market, which is the market where this keeps happening.”

Thompson said that’s not the answer. She believes major city hall players should have responded in her neighborhood jusrt as they did for Smale Park.