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BPD chief: Safety in streets not child’s play

The city’s police chief is hoping for a slam dunk when it comes to keeping children safe in Brookhaven.

But the ball is in the parents’ court.

Chief Kenneth Collins said he wants parents to know it is dangerous to allow their children to play basketball on city streets. He said officers remove the rolling basketball goals from the streets when they find them and lay them in the homeowners’ yards. But Collins said many of the goals end up back in the street, even when the children aren’t playing.

That makes them a hazard to drivers.

“You’ve got some of them who don’t want to take them out of the road,” he said.

He’s been talking to parents about the dangerous practice, especially after one child was nearly hit by a car a few weeks ago while playing.

“I wish the parents would understand about these basketball goals being in the street,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, not if one of the kids is going to get hurt, it’s when one of the kids get hurt.”

It’s not just the basketball goals in the streets that’s raising the chief’s ire. He sees too many unlicensed drivers on city streets in off-road vehicles like golf carts, motorbikes and 4-wheelers.

“I find it hard to believe that some of the parents don’t understand why I don’t want the kids playing in the streets or why you would want a helmet on your child’s head when they’re riding a bicycle or why you don’t want kids riding on the streets on 4-wheelers,” he said. “Well, if you ever see the aftermath of someone getting struck on a motorcycle or an ATV or a child getting hit and knocked 100 yards, you know, if you ever see that you will understand why I feel the way I do.”

It’s not about stopping the kids from having fun, he said.

“I’m still fighting with some parents who still refuse to stop their children from playing in the street,” he said. “It don’t take nothing but a second for somebody to pop around the curve, or somebody distracted on a cell phone, or speeding, or drunk, to kill your child and then you’re looking for someone to blame. Well, I’m trying to stop a tragedy before it happens.”

Children who are playing basketball, even in the yard, need to be supervised to help prevent a tragic accident.

“A basketball could go across the road and a child is not paying attention to a vehicle. They’re chasing the ball,” he said. “It don’t take nothing but a second for tragedy to happen and I just find it hard to believe that we’re still fighting with parents to stop their kids from playing in the streets.”

Collins said relocating the basketball goals out of the road and into the homeowners’ yards has not gotten the message across.

“We can go further but I’m trying not to do that,” he said. “I can take them and put them on the back of the truck and take them to the station.”

He may start doing that.

“I’ve got a few parents fighting me every step of the way, talking trash,” he said. “Some parents don’t see the wisdom in not having their child play in the street, or keeping their child out of the road on these ATVs. All it takes is one time. All it takes is for somebody to look away for a few seconds, or to be on their cell phone texting, to kill somebody. And they don’t understand. It’s not a black or a white issue. It’s a safety issue.”