CLEARWATER, Fla. - It is time to take back the park.
It is the one thing more than 30 members of the Skycrest community could agree on at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night.
Conversation at the meeting was dominated with discussion about the unsolved murder of 22-year-old Jason Paul. Paul was found fatally stabbed in front of Crest Lake Park just a few feet from his doorstep. Police believe Paul was returning home from work on his bicycle when he was attacked and killed on January 5.
Although police are following leads in the case there have been no arrests.
"It is just scary because this is my home," said Kathy Romero, who lives near the crime scene. "This is my neighborhood. This is where I raise my children."
Romero said the park used to be a safe place to go but began going downhill several years ago. At Tuesday's meeting, neighbors spoke of vagrants sleeping in the park, a recent mugging and prostitutes frequenting the area in the middle of the night.
Romero, who has two children in the same age range as Paul, told ABC Action News her heart is broken over his death. Every morning when she does yoga, she cannot help but think of him.
"I keep looking over there," she said.
Clearwater Police officers did attend the meeting to give their monthly crime report. However, they ended up having to calm community member's fears.
Not only were residents told there are no crime trends in the area, they were also provided with crime statistics--all which were low.
"The community is a safe community and we are going to make it even safer," said Major Daniel Slaughter.
Slaughter also told those in attendance this was an isolated incident. What did not help ease anxiety however is Slaughter telling residents he does not believe there was anything in Paul's past that led to his murder. In other words, it is likely this was a random crime.
Police are patrolling the park two or three times per day. They have also offered to walk the park with residents to get them more comfortable.
Still, community members are taking action of their own.
"Maybe we all get complacent," said Carl Schrader with the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition . "We just say, 'Eh it is OK.' But it takes something like this to involve the city. We don't want our city to be like this."
Schrader laid out a plan to make the park a family destination. He wants to start an initiative called 30 Days in the Park. Each day, a different activity would be set up. Suggestions included dog dates, labyrinth night and even an ice cream social.
The first event, however, would be a candlelight memorial in honor of Jason Paul.
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