When 14-year-old Kemar Bryan Brooks was tragically gunned down in Haffen Park in the Bronx in July after playing tennis not a single Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer was available to patrol the Bronx's more than 7, 000 acres of parkland due to dramatic staffing cuts. Queens had just one dedicated PEP officer available for patrol for one eight hour shift daily and Brooklyn had only two. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
The City is hiring 81 additional UPR's which when deployed will only increase the daily dedicated patrol numbers in parks but only a handful per borough when the particulars are factored in.
THE CITY is poised to add 81 new Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers to its rolls but not all of them may be out on patrol, according to the New York Daily News.
That “new hire” figure includes rangers, who focus on education, sergeants, who mainly serve in supervisory roles, and staffers in the communications division, according to Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates, who has direct knowledge of the situation.
“We are happy that some officers are being hired but many more are needed,” he said. “All the boroughs deserve it but with the Bronx having the most parkland in the city, it just makes sense to have a much greater coverage.”
An official at the city Department of Parks and Recreation said “no determination has been made on how the new PEP officers . . . will be assigned” but did note that in addition to the current 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift, Parks would be adding a 4 p.m. to midnight shift.
The Bronx has eight officers, and four sergeants who occasionally perform patrols. The expectation is that the new PEP officers will be distributed evenly throughout the boroughs, Parks officials said, with each borough receiving a double-figure increase in staff.
Training is to begin this spring with the hope of having officers on patrol by July.
Parks is also hiring:
• 207 city park workers, who will assist in park maintenance and operations.
• 96 maintenance and trades workers, technicians and analysts to maintain play equipment, boilers, fences and lighting systems.
• 30 climbers and pruners to preserve city trees.
Over the years, Parks officials said, the workforce has not kept pace with its growing capital infrastructure due to the fiscal crisis.
The number of PEP officers in city parks has fallen to less than 100 in recent years. In the 1990s, there were 450 officers.
Lizbeth Gonzalez, president of Friends of Pelham Bay Park, also expressed concern.
“Maintaining our parks is a team effort,” she said. “We do a lot of hard work maintaining trails, planting trees, removing invasive plants, picking up litter. But we need law enforcement in the form of PEP officers who can keep our parks secure.
“We welcome the addition of new PEP officers and trust that the number assigned to the Bronx will be commensurate with the fact that the Bronx has more parkland than any other borough.”
Park advocates have been critical of the dearth of patrol officers especially given a spike in crimes last summer. Among the victims was 14-year-old Kemar Brooks who was shot and killed after playing tennis in Haffen Park in Baychester.
“When (Kemar) was killed, not a single officer was on patrol,” Croft said.
More park patrol officers coming; advocates hope the Bronx-
with most parkland in city--gets fair share
New York Daily News - March 15, 2013 - By Tanyanika Samuels
A Walk In The Park - March 7, 2013- By Geoffrey Croft