Last week's shooting in Carver Park raised questions among the community of whether the park was safe, but Fulton Police Maj. Roger Rice's answer was straightforward.
"I don't think we can say the parks are dangerous," Rice said. "Actually it's been a lot better than it has been. When I was working heavily with the schools I'd get a call from staff that says there's a rumor that these two kids are going to fight and they're going to the park after school. We haven't even had that in the last year so we're down, not up as far as that park's concerned."
Daryl E. Umbles of Columbia was airlifted to a Columbia Hospital after he was shot at the park in what police believe began as a robbery around 8:30 p.m. April 26. Rice said that though Carver Park was not necessarily "a family place" after dark, that and other shootings in Fulton were rare, isolated situations and that the parks were safe.
Statistics released by the police department seem to validate Rice's claim. Though responses to Carver Park were higher than other parks in the community over the past several months, officers have responded to relatively few crimes of a violent nature there or any other city park. Rice said the majority of complaints officers respond to at parks are for graffiti, traffic or noise violations.
From Jan. 1, 2013 to the date the department released the information April 30, FPD responded to the following violent crime complaints at city parks:
•Carver Park: six unarmed assault complaints and Saturday's shooting
•Memorial Park: two unarmed assault complaints
•Veterans Park: one unarmed assault complaint
•Hockaday Park: one unarmed assault complaint
•Morningside Park: zero calls of a violent nature
"Being honest we've gotten very few calls at Carver Park," Rice said. "(The numbers) are shockingly or surprisingly low. In years past Carver Park was a hot spot but, as far as the other parks are concerned we get virtually no calls at the other parks of any kind."
People who use Carver Park seemed to agree the area wasn't notably unsafe.
"Kids play here all the time, thank God they weren't there when that happened," said James Pittman, who was playing dominoes with friends under the Carver Park gazebo Friday afternoon. "They ain't going to have no problem here."
Pittman was quick to note that Umbles was from out of town. Rice said he was thankful Fulton was not like the larger Columbia, where shooting complaints are far more common.
"I know people are worried, looking at Columbia and thinking, "Oh my God, it's coming to Fulton,' but we as a department are not in any way saying it's coming to that," Rice told the Fulton Sun in an April 29 interview. "The long average is it happens and we do get shots fired calls, but those come from a variety of places."