Boynton Beach is increasing security at its city parks by hiring rangers for the first time.
Currently no city personnel patrol’s the parks, so these park rangers will “give an extra set of eyes,” said Wally Majors, the city’s director of parks and recreation.
“We’ve been trying a find way to secure our 29 parks,” Majors said. “This allows us to add another level of security, something we always try to do.”
But is the city’s motion in response to residents’ concern for park safety?
In the past five years, there have been 1880 incident reports in reference to calls made at Boynton parks, according to records. Not every incident required a police report, city police said.
In July 2017, a woman overdosed at the south side of a children’s playground at an unspecified park in Boynton, according to a police report. She was found on the ground wearing only a shirt. It was unknown what drug was in her system but the woman required a Ketamine injection to counteract overdose effects.
Boynton Beach resident Jennifer Termi said she hesitates to go to any park without her husband.
“There are too many homeless people hanging out in the parks,” Termi said. “I’ve also seen drug deals at Jaycee and Intracoastal park.”
There will be three part-time rangers who will secure gates and bathroom locks, and patrol for any “indecent behavior,” Majors said. Starting salaries will be $15.53 an hour.
The city plans to amend an ordinance written in the 1980s so park rangers can have the authority to ask people to leave the park if they threaten security, trespass or act inappropriately. Rangers would then call police to have them physically removed from the premises if they refuse to leave.
A change to the ordinance was presented to the city commission and will come back for a second reading Tuesday, Sept. 25.
“We want our parks to be more appealing to people,” Majors said. “The emphasis is about customer service and being an ambassador for the city. We want someone who is comfortable working for the public.”
Majors said rangers will also chaperone public events at parks to “ensure that the facilities are secure.”
“If somebody rents one of our facilities and the event runs late we would ask a park ranger to go on over,” Majors said.
Majors said the rangers would work from about 7 p.m. to midnight, depending on when each park closes. They are already hiring for the positions and “would love to have many more applicants,” Majors said.
Those who apply must submit to a background check, have a high school diploma and experience working with security, Majors said. A few of the applicants have been military veterans, Majors said.
If all goes well, the rangers will start their jobs Monday, Oct. 1. In a couple of months the city will review how the rangers perform and then re-evaluate what else is needed for job, Majors said.
Those interested in becoming a park ranger can apply at City Hall.