CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A "Prevention Center" for teens, who break the supervision rules at Coolidge Park, is now complete.
It's opening follows an incident in the park in March, involving hundreds of young people. Several fights broke out as did gun fire. It caused an outcry of concern from the community. City leaders decided to change the city code regarding curfew at Coolidge Park. No one under the age of 18 is allowed in the park without an adult between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
If a young person is picked up during the time, they'll be taken to a renovated facility in St. Elmo. City officials want to emphasize the facility is not intended for punishment. They say the entire mission is to get parents attention.
"It's really not a holding center, it's not a detention center," says Greta Hayes. As Parks & Rec. Director for the City of Chattanooga, the Prevention Center has become Hayes new project.
"These kids have done nothing wrong," she says. "They just happened to be in a park unsupervised. It's really not towards the children, this is about getting parents attention."
The center will only be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings from 6:30 p.m. - 8 a.m. It is only for teens between the ages of 13 and 17-years-old.
Barbara Readnower is part of the newly trained staff who will supervise teens once they arrive, because the center isn't for punishment they plan to use games and other entertainment to interact with the kids. The hope is to steer them in the right direction.
"We want to use this data to help us plug these kids and parents into positive programs," Readnower says.
Hayes says before an officer ever brings a teen to the Prevention Center they have already taken steps to contact family. If no one can be located, parents then have two hours after the teen arrives before her staff contacts the Department of Juvenile Services.
"We'll exhaust every resource before sending the child to juvenile services," says Hayes. "After 8 a.m. we won't have a choice."
So far the city has spent $1,500-$2,000 in start up costs. They estimates costs to run the facility around $850 per weekend.
Hayes says she doesn't expect to see more than 8-10 teens at the center at one time. She hopes the facility will send a strong message to parents.
"It's really important in this day and age to make sure you know where your children are," she says. "Parents should not willingly drop them off at one of our parks unsupervised."
The city also plans to use volunteer staff to cut costs.