Panama City residents ask for change after incidents at Rutherford

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 8:02 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Kids committing crimes is becoming a big concern in Bay County. Just this week an incident at Rutherford High School led to the arrest of 16 students.

Community activist Chandler Strong said the recent vandalism and fights at the school should not be shocking.

“We need to step up and wake up, it’s time for the whole Panama City community to wake up,” Strong said. “All of these kids are gravitating to this on every level so this, this isn’t just one side of community problem this is everybody.”

Strong said he’s been seeing more juvenile crime over the past few years.

“Ever since Hurricane Michael happened, a lot of people went back to living their lives, but a lot of people in the area that frequented Martin Luther King Center, those kids didn’t have nowhere to go,” Strong said.

And he isn’t the only one who said this.

“Since the tragedy is what I call it has struck Panama City. I’ve seen an uptick in kids fighting kids just problematic things with children since those things,” community activist Robert Stewart said.

Hurricane Michael destroyed the Historic Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center, which was a popular hang-out spot for teens.

“It’s so important that our community brings the Martin Luther King Recreations sooner. Because these kids do not have nowhere to go to. And if you don’t have nowhere to go to, you go to doing all crazy things,” Strong said.

It was a request Strong brought before city leaders at this week’s commission meeting. Commissioner Jenna Haligas said she’s listening.

“You know if we can intervene in any way and help shape a child’s life in which direction they’re going, then that’s that’s obviously something that I’m I know I’m personally interested in,” Haligas said.

Haligas said she agrees that kids need a place to go and just be kids outside the classroom.

“Oh my gosh it’s incredibly important, I mean it’s one of those things that, you know, to me that’s part of the quality of life, that all kids have that ability and somewhere to go somewhere safe to go,” Haligas said.

But for now, rebuilding that safe spot is still in the planning stages, with no timeline on when it will be done. Officials said they hope to see progress on the rebuild of the Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center sometime early next year.

Copyright 2021 WJHG. All rights reserved.