Battlefield tennis community wants change, aims to increase safety

As city officials and police continue to address crime in Jackson, one tennis community is looking to enact change on and off the courts.  

The Battlefield Tennis Community Association — which has both adult and youth teams that play at the Dorothy Vest Tennis Center in Battlefield Park — felt it was time to address crime concerns after 18-year-old Jeffery Downs Jr.’s body was found in the park in March. 

Even before Downs’ death, other tennis teams have seemed hesitant to play in the park because of various safety concerns, said Vanecca Green, a captain of the Battlefield Tennis Community Association.  

Members of the Battlefield Tennis Community Association Karley Newell, left, and Venecca Green share a laugh during their tennis match at the Dorothy Vest Tennis Center in Battlefield Park in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Green and other Battlefield tennis community members say they haven’t experienced crime while playing tennis or spending time at the park. Instead, they usually hear about it through news coverage, which they believe plays a role in why others view the area as unsafe. 

Juliet Parker, who started playing tennis in 2017 when she first moved to Mississippi, said she’s excited to see the tennis community working to address the concerns, like installing more LED lights throughout the park. The lights would also be installed in the parking lot, which the tennis court’s facility manager LaPeriall Jones said she hopes deters folks from loitering in the dark.