Monday, January 23, 2012

Park Safety City Council Hearing Rescheduled

New York City Parks Enforcement patch
On Monday, January 30th at 10:00 am, the New York City Council's Parks & Recreation Committee will hold a joint hearing regarding safety issues in our city's parks. The hearing will be held jointly with the Committee on Public Safety, and will take place in the 16th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

Last year, the Parks Committee held an oversight hearing regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program. This hearing raised a number of additional questions about crime in parks and the extent to which the NYPD works with PEP officers to deal with criminal activity. We expect representatives from both the Parks Department and NYPD to testify at this hearing.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday, November 15th but the Police Department pulled out.

Public safety, community members, and park advocates have been pushing for the hearing to highlight the city's severe under reporting of crime in city parks. The hearing was supposed to examine the city's compliance with local Law 114 of 2005 which mandates the tracking and reporting of crime in parks. By 2008 the city was supposed to compile this data for all parks and playgrounds one acre in size and larger which they are not doing.


On Monday, January 30, 2012, the Committee on Parks and Recreation, chaired by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr., and will hold a joint oversight hearing entitled, “A Walk in the Park…or is it? – Examining Safety in NYC Parks.”
WHAT: Committees on Parks and Recreation and Public Safety Hold Joint Oversight
Hearing on Safety in NYC Parks

WHEN: Monday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00 am

WHERE: 250 Broadway, Committee Rm. 16th Floor

It is a statistical fact that NYC Parks are becoming more dangerous. Since 2009, over 850 major felonies have taken place in 31 of the City’s largest parks. These include (1) Central Park, where the total major felony crimes rose by almost 50 percent, from 65 incidents in 2009 to 98 in 2010 with more theft, rape, and drug arrests; (2) Flushing Meadows, where robberies increased from 2 to 10; (3) Prospect Park, where grand larceny nearly doubled from 4 to 7; (3) Riverside Park, where felony assaults increased from 1 to 9; and (4) Crotona Park, where major felony crimes increased by over 400%. As of October 1, 2011 there were 259 major felony crimes in the City’s 31 largest parks for calendar year 2011, with 3rd Quarter of 2011 having 134 major felony crimes – the highest single quarter total since 2008.

"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.


Read More:

A Walk In The Park - November 13, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

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