PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With the city’s gun violence epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, the Philadelphia Police Department is stepping up patrols at the city’s rec centers. Recreation centers around the city had already stepped up COVID-19 precautions in light of the pandemic and now they’re adding an extra layer of security because of rising gun violence surrounding their centers.
“Now, we’re ready to open about 118 of our recreation centers for public hours,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said.READ MORE: Fall Full-Capacity Concerts, Xfinity Live! Preparing To Reopen Has Philadelphia's Stadium District Buzzing With Energy
Ott Lovell announced the opening of more than 100 recreation centers with as many as 150 that will be open by summer.
“We have a lot of precautions, health precautions in place,” Ott Lovell said. “We’ve been working lockstep with the health department to make sure that we can do this safely.”
Not only are recreation centers preparing facilities for COVID-19 precautions, but the gun violence epidemic in Philadelphia is also requiring a much heavier police presence.
Recent shootings at the Christy Park and Recreation Center in West Philadelphia and near the Happy Hollow Center in Northeast Philadelphia have shined a light on how these facilities have become vulnerable to crime.
City recreation centers are rolling out safety plans to combat this issue.READ MORE: Tolls Increasing Sunday On 8 Delaware River Crossings Connecting Pennsylvania, New Jersey
“We’ve had police working on overtime that’s been funded by the police department, which is wonderful. Just being present at the centers, just there on bicycles but also in vehicles,” Ott Lovell said.
The added police presence will be one factor. The community support for staffing will be another.
“We’re adding staff. We’re adding, we’re sort of doubling up on some of our full-time staff so having staff work together as opposed to working at separate centers,” Ott Lovell said. “It’s wonderful to have our recreation leaders have people from the community work alongside them, people from the community who know their neighbors best, know the young people.”
Summer camps will soon resume with more kids finding a safe haven at recreation centers throughout the city.
Philadelphia officials are putting layers of programs in place to keep their facilities safe, hoping to ease the fears of parents who have been unnerved by rising violence around some centers.
“We want to encourage parents to feel OK about sending their kids back to rec centers. I know we’ve heard from some parents that they’re concerned because of what they’ve been hearing on the news about some of the incidents around recreation centers,” Ott Lovell said. “We want to make sure parents and grandparents understand that we’re doing everything we can to keep our kids and staff safe.”MORE NEWS: Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate Race Raises Simmering Divisions Inside Party
All of the reopened centers are resuming regular hours, closing at 8 p.m. Recreation center staff are adding more staff members toward the end of shifts to ensure they’re doubling up on people who are there when the centers are closing