Four rapes in New York City parks come at a time of diminished patrol presence

PEP officers patrol at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue on Monday.

At a time when four women have been raped in the past month in popular New York City parks, some are calling attention to the dramatically depleted ranks of Parks Enforcement Patrol.

In the 1990s, the city kept on staff 450 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, according to Joseph Puleo, the vice president of DC 37 Local 983, the union that represents Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers.

By 2002, that number had been slashed to just 156. And today, there are only 91 city-funded officers who are available to patrol any and all parks.

There are however, an additional 92 privately-funded PEP officers who have fixed assignments at specific parks, such as The High Line and Hudson River parks, according to a Parks Department spokeswoman.

“This is an unacceptable number when you look at the amount of land our parks take up,” East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said.

Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer said there is a clear need for more officers on the ground. PEP officers do not carry guns, but they do serve as a visible deterrent against crime.

“People see a uniform around, they think twice,” Brewer told Metro.

Brewer represents the stretch of the Upper West Side where a 19-year-old was raped on Sept. 3, and one of her constituents includes a 73-year-old woman who was raped on Sept. 12 while birdwatching in Central Park.

After the most recent attack — where a woman was brutally raped Saturday morning in Hudson River Park — many are urging the city not to cut funds any further from the Parks patrol or the NYPD’s budgets.

“A lot of city agencies do have hiring freezes,” Mark-Viverito acknowledged. “But PEP should be an exempt line; we shouldn’t see a dwindling in those numbers any further.”

Police: Four rapes in month of September

1. On Monday, September 3rd at 2:15 a.m., a 19-year-old woman was raped behind a playground in Riverside Park
2. At 2 a.m. on Monday, September 10th, a 56-year-old woman was raped and thrown from the second story of Pier 15 on the East River Waterfront
3. On Wednesday, September 12th a 73-year-old woman was raped midday in Strawberry Fields in Central Park
4. On Saturday, September 22nd, around 5am, a 21-year-old was raped in Hudson River Park. After the attack, she sought help from two PEP officers who happened to be nearby, but those were the only two PEP officers covering the entire 150-acre park, according to Puleo.

Security for Hudson River Park is privately funded, he said.

“If she was in any other park, no one would have been there,” he said, adding that city-funded PEP officers don’t patrol at 5 a.m.

A return to 1980s crime levels?

Parks Patrol has regularly seen a 5 percent budget cut for the past several years, said Puleo.

This year alone, he reported a loss of almost $600,000 in funding to the PEP office.

He also pointed to a spate of playground shootings this summer, including one in the Bronx where a 4-year-old boy was killed, as evidence of a direct connection between the lowering of PEP numbers and crime skyrocketing in parks.

“The way it’s heading now, we’ll be back to 1980s epidemic [crime] rates,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked by reporters about the park crime spike yesterday morning, but he asserted that crimes rates are down overall.

“Some crimes are up a small amount,” he conceded. “We’ve had a couple of rapes that got a lot of publicity that is … just … we’ve just got to stop that. There’s nothing that — it’s really hard to describe how despicable these kinds of crimes are. And we’re doing everything we can, but we just can’t have a cop in every single place.”

Not all parks created equal

Privately-staffed parks can have an officer per acre, while entire boroughs have one officer for all parks in that borough, according to Puleo.

There are also grant- and privately-funded officers who are assigned to specific parks. Paleo estimates there are about 80 of these currently.

For example, Battery Park City spans 30 acres. There are 30 privately funded officers assigned to this park alone; one officer per acre.

Conversely, there was one PEP officer manning all of the parks in Queens this summer, while a majority of PEP officers were allocated to beaches and pools.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

PHOTOS: More than $12 million in heroin, crystal…

Authorities seized more than 44 pounds of heroin and 17 pounds of crystal meth from two stash houses this week during a Manhattan drug bust.

Local

How to donate during the blood drive at…

The Metro-North Railroad and New York Blood Center are hosting a blood drive at Grand Central Terminal Thursday.

Local

Bloomberg launches $50 million anti-gun violence effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million on a grassroots anti-gun violence network to challenge the National Rifle Association.

Local

East Village woman fights off rape attempt from…

An East Village woman fought off an attempted rapist that she woke to find standing on her bed over the weekend, police said.

Books

Becoming friends with New York City's oldest known…

"The Life and Times of Richard Musto" tells the story, through a poem, of the oldest known homeless man in New York City.

Movies

Interview: Johnny Depp says he looks like himself,…

Johnny Depp talks about his new sci-fi thriller "Transcendence," not wearing gaudy makeup and wigs for a change and how he's a bit of a Luddite.

Movies

Review: 'Heaven is for Real' tries to be…

The mega-bestseller "Heaven is for Real" becomes a movie that tries to portray wrestling with faith — or at least it tries to try.

Movies

Slideshow: Check out Johnny Depp looking weird through…

Johnny Depp says he looks like himself in "Transcendence." He usually doesn't. Here's a slideshow of his weirder faces.

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

NHL

Islanders back to rebuilding mode after disappointing season

One season after qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, the Islanders finished 2013-14 with a 34-37-11 record.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.

Wellbeing

Cognitive skills begin to drop at age 24

But the news isn't all that bad.

Career

How to get a job at a startup:…

We talked to Tarek Pertew, one of the co-founders behind Uncubed, about how to get your dream job at a startup.

Parenting

The 'smartest' summer camps across the country

See a list of summer camps across the country that emphasis learning, while still being fun.