Kids’ ‘fight club’ draws scrutiny

A group of middle school students have begun congregating at McQuade Park after school to fight, according to Mayor Mark Evans. Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media

COXSACKIE — Police patrols will be beefed up to deal with a middle school “fight club” that has been congregating in McQuade Park.

“There have been several concerns voiced about the playground,” Mayor Mark Evans said at Monday’s village board meeting.

Trustee Donald Daoust and a resident have observed issues in the park, Evans said.

“There seems to be a group of middle school-aged kids who apparently have — I don’t want to say it’s a ‘fight club’ — but they plan on leaving school and going to McQuade and having fights in the afternoon,” Evans said. “There is no respect by a lot of these kids on the playground. Their mouths are out of control. There are parents there with young kids and they are asking these kids to please tone it down, stop with the language and the result is ‘F-@! you. This is a public park and you can’t tell me what to do.’ Well, guess what, we can kick people out even if it’s a public park.”

“I have had it,” Evans said. “I’m done with the disrespect. I’m done with the nonsense.”

Evans said he will get a quote to purchase cameras and looked at camera locations that would provide a view of the entire park and playground.

He has also spoken with Police Chief Sam Mento about monitoring the situation.

“In the afternoon, a car has to go sit there and it has to be highly visible and they have to get out and walk around,” Evans said. “If they hear foul language, if there is trouble, then they need to get the kid’s name and let us know. If it’s persistent, then we need to talk to the parents.”

Several of the kids are already known to the board and they involve both girls and boys, Evans said.

“We have to do something,” he said. “People go there to enjoy it, especially during the day, there are a lot of grandparents.”

Village Trustee Katlyn Irwin said the village recently renovated the playground at great expense.

“That’s something that everybody in the community spent money on, making it a safe place, and this is the opposite of that,” Irwin said. “I get comments on it all the time and the first thing people say is how is this happening behind the police department?”

McQuade Park is located across the parking lot from the police station.

Mento said Tuesday he has spoken to the mayor and officers have their eye on the park.

“I’ve already spoken to the patrols. We are planning, for now, to have a patrol car to monitor the park,” Mento said. “We don’t have a large police force, but as much as they can, from 2:30 to 6 or 6:30 (p.m.) they will monitor the park and act as a deterrent.”

If a problem arises, the officer will take the steps necessary to defuse the situation and handle it, he said.

“The officer will intervene and assess the situation,” Mento said. “Depending on the circumstances, he will break up the situation and secure the individual and call their parents. It would depend on what the actual circumstances are. With children, you have to handle them depending on what their age is.

“That behavior won’t be tolerated. We can’t have that in the village.”

Mento said there have been incidents in the park, but officers have not witnessed any physical fights.

“Intermittently we have seen some behaviors which are typical of children, but we haven’t seen any outward fighting,” Mento said. “We have had some reports — when kids get together, things can happen. It’s difficult to predict and sometimes things carry over from the school or on social media.”

There have been a couple of arrests in the recent past and parents have been contacted, Mento said.

“We will continue to do so as the situation dictates,” he added.

One suggestion raised at Monday night’s board meeting was having one of the village’s crossing guards stationed at the playground to monitor the situation.

“I know the two women who are the crossing guards — I don’t think you want to put them into this,” Village Trustee Stephen Hanse said.

Irwin recounted an incident where a woman at the park challenged a teenager’s behavior and the response was resistance.

“I think for a 14-year-old to tell an adult to go f-@! themselves when asked to turn down their music is very aggressive for a 14-year-old,” Irwin said.

For the time being, police will monitor the park in the afternoon.

“If there’s no kids there, they don’t need to sit there,” Evans said. “If there’s a gang of kids, they need to hang around. That is good for the short term, but we don’t pay the patrol to be a park monitor. If we are going to do that, then we need to put another police officer on and have him sit in the park, which may be going a little too far.”

Daoust said he has seen a group of 15 or so teenagers congregating at the park and a couple began riding their bikes on the playground equipment. Another time the scuff mats beneath the swing set were removed and lined up against the fence around the playground.

“I would like someone in charge monitoring there. They can have a clipboard, take names or take pictures,” Daoust said. “I’m not asking them to do enforcement. If there’s a problem, they can call the police department, but someone has to monitor what is going on and give us a report.”

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