Friday, September 26, 2014

City Still Not Complying With Park Crime Reporting Law

Thomas Jefferson Park - August  16th, 2014. Three men were shot and injured in the East Harlem park, one of the thousands of park properties the city is not tracking crime for. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

Nearly ten years after the city was first legally required to begin tracking crime in parks the city is still not complying. In February 2014 the City was forced to pass another bill in an effort to get the information but the city has yet to comply with provistions of that as well.   That law required the tracking and disclosure of crime figures for the 100 largest parks by June 1st. That has not happened.  

A few weeks ago the Police Department posted quarterly park crime statistics for the first time. The data however only covered 31 parks, not 100 as required under the new law.

On September 9th, a 19-year-old male was shot in the face in Lyons Square Playground  in the Bronx.  

On August 20th, three people were robbed at gun-point in separate incidents in East River Park, one of the 70 parks that covered under the new law's reporting peroid.     

- Geoffrey Croft 


Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration hasn't complied with a new law requiring the disclosure of crime data in New York City's 100 largest parks, officials said, information the mayor had pushed to be released before his election.

The city began publishing quarterly crime statistics for the 20 largest parks in 2006 and later expanded it to the 31 biggest. A law passed this year required the disclosure of crime figures for the 100 largest parks by June 1, according to the Wall Strweet Journal. 
Mr. de Blasio was a passionate supporter of releasing more crime data about city parks when he was public advocate, penning a stern letter in 2012 to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly after a burst of park violence.
"For a city that wrote the book on data-driven crime fighting, the dearth of statistics on crime in our parks is astounding," Mr. de Blasio said in a news release at the time, as he advocated a disclosure regime similar to what the council passed this year. "We need to fix these blind spots immediately."
However, June 1 came and went, and the statistics for the 100 biggest parks—still as of Thursday—haven't been published on the NYPD's website, as required. The law also mandates that crime figures be disclosed for all 870 parks bigger than an acre by 2017, and many other city recreation spots by 2018.
Mayoral aides and officials at the New York Police Department, which tracks park crimes, said they hoped to comply by the end of the year.
Because crimes are recorded by street address, most crimes in parks have to be manually counted by the NYPD, officials said. The NYPD said it was updating its computer system to be able to capture the data "quickly and accurately" in public parks and other required places well ahead of the timetable outlined in the new law.
"The NYPD takes this responsibility seriously and is committed to not just enhanced public safety in our parks, but also clear reporting of data," the department said in an email.
Phil Walzak, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, said: "We're committed to making sure New Yorkers are soon provided these important crime stats on their neighborhood parks."
Lawmakers and advocates for city parks said they were disappointed with the administration.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's office "expressed displeasure at the lack of data with NYPD," said her spokesman, Eric Koch, after The Wall Street Journal inquired about the issue.
"The speaker strongly believes in reporting parks crime statistics and we continue to work with stakeholders to press for the data in a timely manner," Mr. Koch said.
Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, a Bronx Democrat and chairwoman of the council's Committee on Public Safety, said she would hold the NYPD to a commitment to publish the data by the end of the year. "You missed one deadline, and we want to make sure we're getting the information," she said.
Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit watchdog group, said it was irresponsible to not publish the data. "It's policing 101 to know where crimes are occurring," Mr. Croft said.
"We need to move as quickly as possible to have that kind of critical detail," said Councilman Mark Levine, a Manhattan Democrat and chairman of the council's Committee on Parks and Recreation.
Not everyone thought it was a good idea to force the NYPD to gather park crime data in places as a small as city playgrounds.
In December, during his final week in office, Mr. Bloomberg vetoed the legislation, writing in his veto message that the bill was "unreasonable and impractical." Mandating the release of this information, Mr. Bloomberg wrote, would draw "valuable police resources away from actual police work."
The city's Department of Parks and Recreation oversees roughly 29,000 acres of land—or about 14% of the five boroughs—including more than 5,000 individual properties. The agency operates nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 66 public pools, more than 800 athletic fields and 14 miles of beaches.
In February, in one of Ms. Mark-Viverito's first acts as speaker, the 51-member council voted unanimously to override Mr. Bloomberg's veto, turning the bill into law immediately.
As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, major felony crimes in 31 of the city's biggest parks—the only parks with available crime data—increased nearly 18% in 2013 compared with the previous year. The 2013 total was the highest yearly level since officials began collecting data for these parks.
During the first half of 2014, crime in these 31 parks is down roughly 12%, compared with the same period last year.
During the second quarter of this year, three parks—Central Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Randall's Island Park—accounted for more than 60% of the crime in all 31 parks; grand larceny and robbery were the two crime categories with the highest number of incidents.

Read More:

Wall Street Journal - Sept. 25, 2014 -  By Michael Howard Saul

Bloomberg's Park Crime Reporting Bill Veto is Overridden By City Council
A Walk In The Park -  February 4, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

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