Police set sights on community center in downtown Oak Creek | SteamboatToday.com

Police set sights on community center in downtown Oak Creek

Melinda Dudley

Steamboat Springs — To give local kids a safe and supervised place to play, the Oak Creek Police Department is working to establish a community center in one of downtown Oak Creek's vacant storefronts. The center could open its door early next year. — To give local kids a safe and supervised place to play, the Oak Creek Police Department is working to establish a community center in one of downtown Oak Creek's vacant storefronts. The center could open its door early next year.

— To give local kids a safe and supervised place to play, the Oak Creek Police Department is working to establish a community center in one of downtown Oak Creek’s vacant storefronts. The center could open its door early next year.

Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio envisions the community center as a place local kids will want to go, with pool and foosball tables, arcade games and a DVD library.

“The idea is to give these kids a place to play and do something, instead of walking around the streets and getting in trouble,” Caterinicchio said. “The kids out here have no place to go.”

The Oak Creek Police Department has been aggressively enforcing loitering and curfew in recent months. While Caterinicchio said he does not like giving kids summonses, the police force does not have a lot of other options at the present time.

While the primary problem in Oak Creek is kids being out late at night without adult supervision, the town has also seen juveniles committing offenses such as vandalism or getting involved in other mischief, such as lighting off fireworks, Caterinicchio said.

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Use of the community center would not be restricted only to kids from Oak Creek, but would be available to all of South Routt.

“This would be available to kids from Yampa, Phippsburg, anyone who wants to come,” Caterinicchio said.

When her kids were growing up, they had nothing to do in the summer other than baseball, Oak Creek resident Ann Klumker said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Klumker said. “I hope it happens.”

Creating a safe place with adult supervision is key not just to keeping kids out of trouble in Oak Creek, but also keeping them safe, Caterinicchio said.

“When children are out when they shouldn’t be, they’re vulnerable,” Caterinicchio said. “They’re vulnerable to injury, to accidents. They can be hit by cars. We have registered sex offenders in town.”

The community center not only would serve a great need in South Routt, but would also a proactive way to prevent juveniles from getting into trouble, Caterinicchio said.

“I’m trying to balance my law enforcement with public service, and keep my ears open to needs in the community,” Caterinicchio said.

Caterinicchio has been in talks with businesses and individuals seeking sponsorships, as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, which he considers very successful in that community.

The police department will also start participating in the federal Volunteers in Police Service program in January, and the community center could be under its auspices, Caterinicchio said.

– To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com