A Winter Haven woman was arrested Tuesday after she allowed her four children, all under the age of 9, to walk unattended almost half a mile to a local park while she went to a food bank, according to police.
Police said an officer who was on patrol parked across from Lake Maude Nature Park after she spotted the 8-year-old, twin 7-year-olds and 6-year-old playing in the park without an adult in the immediate area.
The officer went over to the children after one of them waved in her direction. When she got to the children she saw the 8-year-old was stuck in a swing made for toddlers. After being unable to get him out she called the Winter Haven Fire Department, who took the swing down and freed the child.
After the firefighters left the officer stayed close to the children, who weren't initially able to tell the officer where they lived. However, they ultimately gave her their names, ages and told her the area where they lived, telling her they had left their home in the morning.
While waiting for another officer to arrive, police said the children's mother, Ashley Richardson, pulled in to the park.
Richardson was taken into custody and was booked into the Polk County Jail. She reportedly told police she didn't think it would take her so long at the food bank.
Richardson was charged with four counts of negligent child abuse without bodily harm.
"Our officer had great concern for the safety of these children," said Chief Gary Hester. "She gave ample opportunity for an adult to come forward. For anyone to think it is OK to allow small children to walk almost a half mile alone across a heavily-traveled road -- not to mention left in unsafe conditions -- is criminal and will not be ignored."