Tampa, FL -- With all that's been happening in Seminole Heights these past few weeks and Hillsborough County students out of school this whole week for the Thanksgiving holiday, a lot of working parents in the neighborhood were wondering how they would keep their kids safe.
Fortunately, the City of Tampa has seven recreation centers open for the first three days of this work week, and four of them within just a few miles of Southeast Seminole Heights.
Kids in Seminole Heights were playing together during fall break camp on Monday, but you shouldn’t let their childish laughter fool you.
Most children here are all-too-aware of the deadly threat in their neighborhood. Which is why most say they’re glad to be here instead of home alone during this Thanksgiving break.
“Someone can creep up on you, and another bad thing could happen. Like I did four other times. Sadly, in Seminole Heights. So, it's just good to be around some adults or authority,” said D.J. Williams, just 12-years old.
With a serial killer still on the loose, parents like Nikki Williams decided the Henry and Ola Rec Center would be a lot better – safer - place for D.J. and her other children to spend their days off this week.
“You have someone here with the kids. And you don't have to worry about, ‘Oh, I am at work’, because some parents can't take off of work. You know?”
With Hillsborough schools out the entire week, a lot of parents had the same concerns, which didn’t leave them with many options.
The security of their own front yard has been shattered by four murders in the past six weeks.
“That's like the first thing that comes to a parent’s mind. Like, what am I going to do with my kids? I've got to work. And something crazy is going on in this city at this moment. What is the first thing I should do?” asked Dustin Williams, a father of four.
The city of Tampa’s answer is Fall Break camp.
Seven of Tampa’s recreation centers are staffed from 7 am to 6 pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Four of those rec centers are within just a couple of miles of Southeast Seminole Heights.
Also comforting? Police are able to drive by the centers often.
“I see a lot of police riding by on the beat every minute. It's like you can't go a couple of minutes or seconds without seeing police riding by,” said Dustin Williams.
How does that make 12-year-old D.J. feel?
“I feel a lot safer,” he said. “And if something bad happens or someone shows up that looks strange I would call the police.”
The free program is offered by the city of Tampa.
The rec centers will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after, but presumably, far more parents will be home on those days and able to supervise their children themselves.
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