NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Are New York’s parks safe?READ MORE: Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo Charged With Misdemeanor Forcible Touching
As CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois reported, millions of residents enjoy the city’s parks, but some observers say there could be a false sense of security. Park safety is underfunded, and the way Parks Enforcement Patrol officers are deployed is in dire need of reform, they argue.
City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens) is sounding the alarm about rising crime in parks. He said illegal activity is up 40 percent in the city’s largest parks compared to last year, the biggest increase since 2008.
Vallone said a big part of the problem is there are not enough officers patrolling parks to keep people safe.
“There are some times in Queens County and in the outer boroughs where we have two to three of these officers for the entire borough at one time protecting our parks,” Vallone said. “It’s ridiculous.”
There are 13 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers staffed in the Bronx, 13 in Brooklyn, 14 in Queens, 10 in Manhattan and nine in Staten Island.
Joe Puelo, president of Local 983, the union that represents Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, said there are no other law enforcement officers dedicated to New York’s parks. The city’s Parks Department said the officers enforce quality-of-life issues and work closely with the NYPD to address criminal activity.
“We need a much better distribution of officers,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “We need a heck of a lot more officers.”READ MORE: 'Survivor' Contestant Michelle Yi Describes Frightening Santa Monica Assault
CBS 2 learned there are other problems that may lead to uneven enforcement in parks. Observers say some parks use private funds to pay for extra officers. CBS 2 found 40 officers covering just 35 acres in Battery Park City, and 30 officers in Hudson River Park.
“It’s outrageous because money should not be able to buy security,” Croft said.
When asked about the imbalance, the Parks Department said in a statement that it had recently hired 81 officers, doubling the force, and defended its policy regarding privately funded officers.
“Some privately funded organizations contract with NYC parks to provide additional security services,” Parks Department spokesman Arthur Pincus said in the statement. “The public benefits greatly from having extra security and peacekeeping officers.”
But critics say they only benefit in certain parks, and that needs to change.
“Every park in every community deserves to be safe,” Croft said.
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