"The safety of our parks is of paramount concern," said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee. "Both residents and tourists consider our parks to be one of our City's greatest resources. We must do all that we can to ensure that everyone can enjoy these spaces without the threat of being assaulted. The Committee on Parks and Recreation and the Committee on Public Safety plan on doing our very best to get to the bottom of this surge in crime. I certainly believe that budget cuts to vital city services and agencies are part of the problem, but there may be additional causes. I will wait to hear from those on the ground before coming to any final conclusions."
“Our parks offer an oasis for our residents – they allow for sanctuary and an escape from crowds. But that same solitude may place people at risk. It’s unacceptable that we’ve had as few as two PEP officers in certain boroughs, and these statistics prove beyond all doubt that we need more,” said Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
The goal of the joint oversight hearing is to learn more about the possible causes for these increases and discuss what can be done to reverse the upward trend. In past hearings, it has been suggested that the decline in the number of Park Enforcement Patrol (“PEP”) officers has contributed to the rise in crime. The total number has significantly decreased over the last five years as a result of budget cuts, and it creates difficulties in adequately responding to public complaints and ensuring pedestrian safety in parks. The committees will review this assessment, as well as discuss the cooperation and coordination between the NYPD and Department of Parks and Recreation and the strategies and tactics each agency is utilizing, and plans to utilize, to make sure the crime rate in parks reverses course and begins to see a downward trend.
The Committees expect to hear testimony from representatives of the NYPD and the City Department of Parks and Recreation, advocacy groups, and members of the community.