CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) — A bunch of high-powered guns one would think were for a SWAT team or maybe special ops was found at a suburban park district police department.
As 8-year-old Patrick plays at a park in Chicago Heights, his older brothers keep a close watch on him. Yet their mother wishes there were more for her boys to do at their neighborhood park.READ MORE: 'An Important Time For Us': Chicagoans Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
“Our parks need to be updated, and also they need to implement new programs and stop taking them away,” said Patrick’s mother Paulicia Page.
Page clearly believes more cash is needed to upkeep the rundown city parks.
“It has been years since I’ve seen a Chicago Heights Park District police around,” she said.
And effective this week, no one will see park district police anymore. The board voted to abolish the department, and in the process it discovered the five officers on the part-time force had access to M-16 rifles.
“They’re meant for, I believe, military. I don’t see any reason why a part-time park district officer would need that type of arsenal,” said Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez.
Gonzalez also said since the department started in 2015, officers never made a single arrest.READ MORE: Downtown Chicago Roadblocks Quell Mexican Independence Day Street Celebrations
Gonzalez has now taken on the role of park superintendent, but he is not getting paid. He said town officials discovered the guns only after bringing in a locksmith to open a safe. He said it was never mention by the outgoing chief.
“Pretty surprised the rifles existed and even more surprised they weren’t included on an inventory,” he said. “That’s the big question: How do you miss putting nine M-16s on an inventory list?”
The parks police started with a budget of $60,000.
“That $60,000 today has ballooned to over $250,000 to $300,000. That’s the money we need to put back into our parks,” Gonzalez said.
As for the weapons, Gonzalez said they were given to agencies that couldn’t afford them, but he insists the park police never needed them.
With the department eliminated, those who use the parks hope to see changes.
“I’m happy they’re taking some type of action now, and I look forwardto seeing renovations,” said Page.MORE NEWS: 'We're Back': Store Owner Reopens Chicago Sports On Michigan Avenue After 2020 Unrest
Those M-16s have been turned over to the state. The park’s board did not want to leave them unattended since the force no longer exists.