Thursday, March 13, 2014

Park Crime Increases 18% - Up Nearly 60% Over 5 years

Police investigate the rape and strangulation of a 28-year-old Russian woman on November 17th in Central Park near 100th street between Fifth Avenue and the East Drive. Police arrested Omar Hoist, 32, a few days later. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

There were 26 incidents in Central Park during the final quarter of 2013 including eight robberies, and two felony assaults. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Crime in the city's 31 largest parks rose 18% in 2013 over the previous year according to the latest figures compiled by the NYPD.

There were 417 major felonies reported in these parks the highest yearly total since 2009 when the City Council began to receive crime in parks information from the small data set.

In 2012 there were 354 felony crimes reported. 

Crime increased by nearly 60 % over last 5 years of the Bloomberg administration the data shows.

Three parks accounted nearly 60% of all crime that occurred in quarter: Central Park (26 incidents); Flushing Meadows (17 incidents); and Riverside Park (13 incidents).  

The dramatic increase in park crime comes of heals of comments made last week by Police Commissioner Bratton who spoke about his work in re-organizing the department including some of the issues he will focus upon.

The commissioner mentioned that he along with his consultant, criminologist George Keeling, author of the "Broken Windows Theory" -  will be resurveying "parks and open spaces."

Under Bloomberg the city had 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. 

Year  Total number of major felony crime complaints

2013   417  
2012   354  
2011   327 
2010  328 
2009   265

There were 93 major felonies in city parks in the fourth quarter of 2013. This is the highest number of felony crimes in parks in a fourth quarter in the past four years.


Central Park  - Manhattan       1 Rape, 8 Robberies, and 2 Felony Assaults 
Crotona Park - Bronx                     8 Robberies
Flushing Meadows - Queens 4 Robberies, two Burglaries, and 9 Grand Larceny
Prospect Park -  Brooklyn 1 Rape, 6 Robberies, 
Riverside Park - Manhattan 8 Robberies, and 5 Felony Assaults

Last month the City Council passed Int 859-A, Peter Vallone's revamped park crime bill after Mayor Bloomberg vetoed it in one of his final acts as mayor.   

The new bill 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.  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 data was not released this way on Tuesday. 

The 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 was introduced by Peter Vallone and supported by the Parks Department partner organization New Yorkers For Parks.

In 2005 the City passed Local Law 114, requiring the Police Department to track and release felony crime data in all parks only one acre or greater after three years which the city did not comply with.   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.

In response to an uptick of violent crimes and to repeated calls on the Bloomberg administration to increase the severely depleted ranks of Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP),  last year the administration doubled the number officers. 

The City hired 80 officers bringing the total number to 161 a dramatic decrease of 450 officers in the 90's. 

More than a dozen officers however have already left the agency since being hired bringing the number  down below 150.   Officers cite poor pay, lack of moral caused by poor management, and opportunity for advancement within the job as reasons for leaving. 

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 died a year later. Most playgrounds are less than 1 acre 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.  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.  

Read More:

Wall Street Journal - March  12, 2014 - By Michael Saul

A Walk In The Park - February 4, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

WABC News -  March 12, 2014  

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