Making Gulfport's Dedeaux Park Safer

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- "You're welcome to the park. If you violate the law, you're getting arrested." That's the message Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford is sending out this week after talking with residents about concerns with Dedeaux Park.

On any given summer day, you'll find families or teens taking advantage of the park's cool water and sandy beaches. But Chief Weatherford says, some people have concerns about the safety of the popular swimming spot, especially since two recent deaths there.

"We responded to the citizens issues, and a lot of it was just the activity out there, illegal activity that has contributed to some of the problems in that park."

Specifically, he says problems that center around drugs and alcohol. And that's something Mayor Brent Warr says, his city will not allow.

"A lot of illegal drug activity in that area. We're definitely not going to tolerate that for a second," says Warr.

Weatherford reports, "We made four arrests over the weekend and we'll continue with those arrests. We have directive patrols seven days a week in that park, along with stepped up enforcement at designated times through the week and the weekend."

Besides the extra police presence, Warr says they're addressing another safety concern -- emergency access.

"There's definitely a traffic and parking problem down there. We want to get that taken care of."

Weatherford tells WLOX, "Friday we started putting signs out, 'No Parking' signs on the roadways because emergency response vehicles could not get in there properly."

Some of those signs were either stolen or knocked down over the weekend. But Weatherford says he's sure their presence, has already reassured families.

"By our presence being out there over the weekend, Saturday, we had citizens come by, and realized we were there, and went and got their families and brought them back. That makes a difference."

Mayor Warr says the city has no interest in closing the park, and is still looking at other options for improved safety.