Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bloomberg's Park Crime Reporting Bill Veto is Overridden By City Council

One of Michael Bloomberg's final acts in office was vetoing a bill that tracks crime in public parks.  His opposition was emblematic of his administration's lack of accountability and his selected use and interest in collecting data.

Evergreen Playground, Brooklyn - July 13, 2012.   A Parks Department worker washes down the basketball court hours after 24-year-old Kevin Daugherty was shot in the eye while playing ball.  On August 3, 2013 - more than a year after being shot - Kevin succumbed to his injuries and died.    (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

Evergreen Playground,  like most playgrounds is less than 1 acre in size. Under the previous crime reporting bill, Mr. Daugherty's death,  just like the shooting itself,  would not have been a statistic as having occurred in a park.

A decade-old law meant to monitor crime in public parks is finally getting fixed, a law that Mayor Bloomberg quietly vetoed in the waning days of his administration. 

Since 2008  the Police were supposed to track crime in all parks one acre or greater but they have not complied.  They claimed they didn't have the "resources" and the "necessary technology.” 

Unfortunately the bill approved today allows the Police Department to delay beginning tracking crime in parks under one acre including in basketball courts,  recreation centers, public pools,  and beaches until 2018. 

The city has been remarkably slow to implement a GPS system to track crime in parks. GPS mapping which is what is ultimately needed has finally begun in some parks as part of the Citywide Street Centerline (CSCL) database -    but this should have been completed many years ago.


By Geoffrey Croft

One of Michael Bloomberg's final acts in office was vetoing a bill that tracks crime in public parks, today the City Council voted to override that veto.

After more than a decade the city is finally slated to get a park crime reporting law do-over which impacts the city's largest land holder the Parks Department, but not if Mayor Bloomberg had his way. 

The Mayor quietly vetoed the bill a few days before the new administration took over.  

The City Council voted unanimously to approve Int 859-A,   Peter Vallone's newly revamped park crime reporting bill at the final Stated meeting on December 19th.

The Mayor vetoed the bill on December 27, four days before the new administration took over. The mayor's press office refused to provide the veto message despite repeated requests. 

The bill approved today includes important improvements to a previous weak law passed in 2005 that omitted more than half the park properties. The bill also removes the language that made compliance of the original 2005 park crime reporting bill, “subject to the availability of resources and the introduction of the necessary technology, ” a stipulation that the NYPD relied on, at least legally,  in order to avoid comply with the law. 

Beginning January 1, 2014, the new bill requires the NYPD to report the data for the thirty largest parks, as determined by acreage;  beginning June 1, 2014, the NYPD would have been required to report data for the one hundred largest parks, beginning January 1, 2015, report data for two hundred largest parks, beginning January 1, 2016, report data for the three hundred largest parks and beginning January 1, 2017, the NYPD  report data for all parks one acre or greater in size.

Unfortunately the new law gives the city another four years to comply with the tracking crime for more than half of the park properties.  But even that was not good enough for the Mayor because the law created an undue "burden" on the City. 

Beginning in January 1, 2018, the NYPD will be required to report data for all public pools, basketball courts, recreation centers, and playgrounds that are not located within parks one acre or greater in size. 

The bill also requires the NYPD to conspicuously post all quarterly reports of major felony crime complaints for parks online via the department’s website within 5 business days of the department’s submission of such reports to the Council.

The exclusion of reporting crime on these park properties was a major point of contention for NYC Park Advocates, Local 983, the union that represents park police, and NY State Senator Tony Avella who introduced legislation over the summer to address these and other deficiencies. 

In his veto message the Mayor absurdly suggested the public would be able to get the information from the individual precincts, ignoring the practically of attempting to compile such information from each of the City's 77 police Precincts.  

The Mayor apparently completely misses the point and purpose of requiring the city track crime in park including not taking responsibility for making sure the proper technology was utilized to create the requested data.   His bizarre rational in vetoing the law is here.

According to the Bloomberg the law would "impose an arbitrary time table for increasing the number of parks falling within the law reporting requirement." 

Logistics aside - three weeks earlier it was widely reported that in a major policy shift Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered all police precincts to deny journalists from being able to access the forms which outline the previous week’s felony crime reports. The information details crime reports in every New York City precinct including information on all murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary or theft of property in the precinct.   


For Bloomberg who has relentlessly promoted a technology-driven administration they were been remarkably slow and resisted utilizing these methods for monitoring crime in parks.   

The use of  GPS  mapping technology which has been available for years has finally begun being implemented in a few select parks as part of the Citywide Street Centerline (CSCL) database.  This should have been completed many years ago. 

The program has not been announced by City Hall yet. 

It is also important to note that this lack mapping also impacts the delivery of Fire Department and EMS services in park related incidents.  

In December the administration finally unveiled an NYPD interactive crime map that enables the public to search and access basic data on felony crime occurrences by location.  

The map was built by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) using Google products with crime complainant data as reported to the NYPD. Crime statistics by precinct have been available on the Police Department's website since 2003 and are updated weekly.

The public can now bring up maps of  felony crime occurrences by address, zip code, or police precinct anywhere in the city. 

Conspicuously absent however is data from the city's largest land holder, the Parks Department.  

"Care should be taken in interpreting crime counts and rates in the central business districts of each borough as well as parks and beaches (see the statistical and technical notes).

If a complaint report cannot be referenced to an intersection or a specific address it is not mapped.

According to the crime map  initiative, "crimes occurring in parks, beaches or open areas often cannot be mapped, some may be mapped if there is enough information on the report to determine a close cross street and will appear on streets or intersections bordering the area. Some larger parks are bisected by streets and crimes recorded as occurring on those streets will be mapped."

The police often assign a random cross street address which can be miles away from scene of the crime in a park. This also regularly leads to inaccurate reporting as the crime is often listed as having occurred outside of a park.   This is also problematic when attempting to track down real time information from DCPI.  

Previous Bill

Peter Vallone's original bill dubbed,  "What Happens In Parks Stays In Parks,"   by critics contained a number of glaring omissions that continued to jeopardize public safety.  The bill's language changed dramatically after a contentious hearing on November 22, 2013 where Vallone was slammed for introducing a bill that once again severely limited the scope of the reporting by requiring the city to track crime in less than half of park properties.  

The new language required the city to report data for all public pools, basketball courts, recreation centers, and playgrounds that are not located within parks one acre or greater in size. 

Getting the city to finally begin tracking crimes on property in city largest land holder, the Park Department has been tortured journey.

In 2005 the City passed Local Law 114, requiring the Police Department to track and release felony crime data in all parks one acre or greater after three years.  The weak law excluded reporting crimes in the vast majority of playgrounds, as well public pools, basketball courts and recreation centers.
The law also contained language made compliance, “subject to the availability of resources and the introduction of the necessary technology.”   

More than eight years after being passed the NYPD was still only reporting crimes in 30 city parks, plus Central Park which has it own police precinct. 

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