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Pennington Gap adds security measures at Leeman Field Park

Security measures are to protect children and their families after a needle for medical use was discovered in a sandbox last year. (L. Owens, WCYB)

New security added to a Pennington Gap park makes it one of the most monitored places in town now.

It is to protect children and their families after a needle for medical use was discovered in a sandbox last year.

Jack Mullins walks six days a week at Pennington Gap's Leeman Field Park. He has been logging three miles a day for the last four years.

"It's close to my home and I like the area," Mullins said.

Last year, police reported finding a needle in the sandbox at the park. It was determined the needle was diabetic-material dropped from a parent's bag. City officials decided extra safeguards were needed.

"That initiated us to start thinking about really heavily about our camera system, updating our security here at the park," town manager Keith Harless said.

The park has added two new rangers to patrol.

"There's a lot of children in this community and that's so important that they have a safe place to come and not have to worry about anything," park ranger Greg Ross said.

The rangers are funded by a federal program through Mountain Empire Older Citizens.

"They kind of monitor to make sure that the facilities clean, up-to-date and safe. They monitor to see if anything suspicious is going on," Harless said.

The rangers work 20-hours a week through a four-year agreement with the town.

"It is my duty and my responsibility to have people that come and visit the park feel welcome and find clean places to sit down and meet with the family and meet with friends and enjoy this park," park ranger Alberto Sandoval said.

If there is any suspicious activity, police are alerted immediately and go to work.

"Now, we have an up-to-date, internet-based camera system that is directly linked to the computers inside the police officers' cars."

Residents like Mullins can already tell a difference in security.

"It's improved considerably," Mullins said.

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