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posted May 16, 2005

Letter to the Editor: An "Incident" (involving a man and some kids) at Dovercourt Park

My partner witnessed what I will loosely call an incident at Dovercourt Park on Monday that concerns us. There is a young man who spends most of his days at the park playing with and/or interacting with the kids. Last year he used to spend a lot of his time at Mary McCormick park. Apparently his family has moved into our neighborhood. The young man is mentally challenged, to what extent I am not really sure (apparently he suffered a serious brain injury when he was younger). Based on our experience over the last couple of years with the man at Mary McCormick Park and at Dovercourt Park this year, there has never been any cause for concern. In fact the kids quite enjoy playing with him. We have no reason to believe that he is a threat to anyone, child or adult. Given the frequency of his presence at these two parks over the last two years and the number of kids he has interacted with, it is highly probable that if this young man had behaved in any way inappropriately we would have heard about it from other parents at the park.

So what my partner witnessed was a police cruiser parked next to the park and the officer talking with this man in a friendly manner while escorting him away from the playground. The young man appeared very concerned or worried. My partner intervened on the man's behalf and spoke with the officer. The officer advised her that the police had received a call from someone concerned by the man's presence at the playground. The police officer was very polite and professional.

My partner informed the officer that she knew this young man as a regular park attendee and that he was harmless and interacted with the kids on an almost daily basis. That she had absolutely no concern with him interacting with our kids (3 1/2 & 5 1/2). The young man was very relieved by my partner's words and seemed to brighten up considerably, stating to the officer 'see, I told you' or words to that effect. Soon thereafter the police officer left and the man was 'allowed' to return to the park and resume whatever he was doing.

The real problem that this event highlights for me, is that we as a community are not communicating to each other very well. It is, unfortunately, reasonable for a parent to be concerned by the presence of a single young man apparently unkown and in his 20s or 30s who is interacting with kids in the park without the parents invitation. It would have been preferable for the concerned parent to have approached the young man directly and if their concerns were not assuaged to have approached other members of the park community to find out more about this young man. Calling the police should be a last resort. It might also have been a good idea for the man's parents or guardians to have approached members of the park community when they moved into the neigborhood.

Louis Richer

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