In the last nine months, violent crime in New York City parks has increased 23 percent compared to the previous nine months, according to a new report that broke down the statistics to reveal which parks reported the most crimes and the most violence.
The new report, released by NYC Park Advocates, does not include Central Park, which has its own police precinct, but it does analyze park crimes across the five boroughs and breaks down the results by park and type of crime. In the last nine months of crime statistics provided by NYPD, eight murders, 17 rapes, 289 robberies and 189 felony assaults were reported in the city’s parks.
Analyzing NYPD statistics that date from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, NYC Park Advocates found that Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens had the most crime while Crotona Park in the Bronx had the most violent crimes.
During that period, Crotona Park was the scene of 23 violent crimes while Claremont Park, also in the Bronx, had 21 reported violent incidents, according to NYC Park Advocates. Flushing Meadows Corona Park had 49 total crimes while Manhattan’s Riverside Park reported 40.
Other parks on the list included Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which had 16 violent crimes and 30 overall crimes, and Manhattan’s Union Square Park, which reported 18 total crimes, NYC Park Advocates stated. Rufus King Park in Queens totaled the highest number of reported rapes, with three.
"More than a person a day is the victim of a violent crime in a city park," Geoffrey Croft, founder of NYC Park Advocates, said to the Wall Street Journal. "It’s a bad omen. It shows a lack of priority in dealing with this."
The first nine month sample used by Croft's group includes July 2014 to March 2015. The second sample set of months used for comparison include July 2015 to March of this year.
From July 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015, 340 violent crimes — an average of 37 murders, rapes, robberies or felony assaults per month — were reported by the NYPD. From July 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, 503 violent crimes — an average of 59 per month — were reported.
Croft said those numbers don't include crimes not reported by victims who might be illegal immigrants, those who fear retaliation and crimes that were downgraded. Croft gave the example of a purse snatching that took place in Kassina Corridor Park about two months ago. A woman was robbed while with her 4-year-old son, according to Croft, but the charges were reduced to burglary.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Public Information Lieutenant John Grimpel disputes Croft's numbers. Grimpel claims that 891 crimes took place in city parks out of 105,456 total crimes in 2015. From January to March, he claims 108 crimes were committed in parks out of 23,248 crimes committed in the City of New York. Extrapolating from Grimbel's numbers for the wintery months, 2016 would average 432 crimes in parks out of 92,992 crimes reported in the five boroughs.
"Less than one half of 1 percent of crime happens in parks," Grimpel said.
J. Peter Donald, assistant commissioner of DCPI, echoed that statement.
"Last year was the safest year in New York City history," Donald said, adding that city parks "are by far the safest place in the entire universe."
Donald explained that 14 percent of the city's land is a city park, so the numbers average out to "fewer than one crime per park per year."
Croft is sticking to his data and said what the city needs to do is allocate funds to Park Enforcement Patrol, especially during the parks' peak season. He said that sources in the Parks Department told him that only two park enforcement patrol officers were dispatched to cover the entire borough of Queens last Friday.
Parks Enforcement Union Local 983 President Joe Puleo said patrol numbers like that are "more common than not" during the summer months.
"It's alarming because we've been complaining for a very long time," Puleo said, explaining that most of the summer patrols are used to cover the beaches and swimming pools.
Citing an increase in city population, tourism and "stay-cations," Puleo said the city's parks are being used more than ever. He added that some funding has come from the mayor's office, but city council said crime in parks in "not a priority" and that the city is in "complete denial."
[Park-goers] have a right to be safe," he said.
A spokesperson from the mayor's office gave Metro a statement: "Crime across the city is at an all-time low – and crimes in parks remain rare. Just like they do on the streets, NYPD is focusing resources on trouble spots using a model of precision policing that has made our city the safest big city in America."