Police Work & Child's Play

Officers volunteer to build a place for children at an apartment complex THE FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM -- The children of the Casa Madrid apartments had two options. They could ignore the beer bottle caps in their courtyard and play in the dirt or they could wait until their parents drove them to the park. Some, such as 7-year-old Marcos Ray Castaneda, often chose to play in the dirt, and even in the mud when it rained. But not anymore. Yesterday, Arlington police officers from the west side office built a small playground in the courtyard of the apartment complex, which is in the 1500 block of Lovers Lane. The play set includes swings, a wooden fort and a climbing rope. The officers, who volunteered for the project, worked as the children watched. "They're going to have slides, and I get to play with my friends," Marcos said. The play set was long overdue for the children, who have spent most of their time indoors playing with friends, said Sylvia Castaneda, Marcos' mother. Before the play set was installed, parents had to check with neighbors to find their children, she said. Now, parents will know exactly where to look, she said. "It's really wonderful that these people volunteered to do this," Castaneda said. "I'm really glad that they care enough about the community to spend their time coming here and doing it." Police Cpl. Glenn Cole, who patrols the area, said he decided to build the play set about two months ago. He said he noticed the children playing in the mud and wanted to give them a better place to play. "When we came into this complex, the kids had nothing," Cole said. "They were asking us, 'Do you have stickers?' " Cole pitched the idea to his colleagues and persuaded local businesses to help pay for the play set. About 10 officers volunteered yesterday. The play set will give the children a safer environment, said Mardie Arredondo Casa Madrid's apartment manager. Arredondo said she was worried that the children would be cut by broken glass that sometimes litters the courtyard. Officers said they hope the play set will improve their relationship with the children. "Our hope is that it will be a positive influence because so many times they'll see us in an enforcement capacity," police Sgt. Tom Savage said. "Hopefully, they'll feel confident coming up to us and telling us any issues or problems that they have." The play set comes at a good time for the children, who will soon be home all day on summer vacation, Castaneda said. "This is a good thing," she said. "Keeping kids out of trouble, focusing on [the playground] instead of wandering out on the streets and getting into mischief."

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