Crime on rise in city parks

Felony crimes in Central Park rose by almost 50 percent from 2009 to 2010 — from 65 to 98, including robbery, drug and rape arrests, according to the City Council. Numbers are not yet available for 2011.

You might want to think twice before taking a shortcut through Central Park.

Members of the City Council will meet today to discuss the problem of increasing crime in city parks.
Major crimes like grand larceny and assault are on the rise there: A three-month period near the end of 2011 saw the highest number of crimes in three years, according to Council statistics obtained from the police.

The NYPD, which is in charge of parks safety, recorded 134 crimes in the third quarer of 2011. That’s the most crime in one quarter since 2008, according to police records.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said more than 75 percent of robberies were of electronic devices, mostly cell phones, and in parks where grand larcenies were prevalent, more than 80 percent were items stolen while unattended, out in the open or in a car. He added that parks like Flushing Meadows Corona Park have experienced more crime with an increase in usage, especially in sports facilities like the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Aquatic Center. 

But Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, a citizens’ park watchdog group, said even more crimes occur than those numbers show. The NYPD only supplies the Council with data for 31 major parks, Croft said, so that does not include, for example, crimes in dozens of playgrounds and small parks scattered around the city.

“We estimate that the NYPD is tracking less than five percent of crimes,” Croft said.

Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, who is chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said parks desperately need more officers. At an April Council hearing, park officials testified that just 92 Park Enforcement Patrol officers patrol 29,000 total acres of parkland citywide. In the Bronx, nine officers patrol 7,000 acres. 

More than 850 major felony crimes have occurred in New York’s 31 parks since 2009, according to Council statistics. “The safety of our parks is paramount,” said Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, chair of the parks committee. “We must do all we can to ensure everyone can enjoy these spaces without the threat of being assaulted.”

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @alisonatmetro


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