Despite Reports Of Wielded Knife, Taser, NYPD Commish Says Park Remains A Safe Place

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Visitors to Central Park remain on edge following three violent muggings over the weekend.

The robberies are unrelated, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.

And police have just released surveillance video of one incident, in which more than a dozen teens who police say mugged a young couple, CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.

In the first incident, more than a dozen teenagers approached the couple at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night at Heckscher Playground near 62nd Street and West Drive.

One of the muggers threatened the couple with a knife and possibly a Taser, and a female victim was punched in the face.

The victims were robbed of their cell phones.

“It’s surprising to think that,” one park visitor told CBS2’s Matt Kozar. “It does seem like a safe place.”

The second mugging took place along the 81st Street transverse near Belvedere Castle Sunday morning. In that incident, a 45-year-old man was choked and robbed of his wallet and backpack by a gun-wielding suspect.

In the third mugging, a woman had her purse taken near East Drive around 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m totally shocked,” Upper West Side resident Gun Bauchmer told CBS2. “I mean, any place, but especially here.”

“Central Park… a place like this? You don’t think it can happen, you know?” said Riverdale resident Rachel Mitskaris. “It’s scary.”

“The park at night is not a safe place. It’s too big to patrol. It’s very easy to catch yourself alone,” said Jordan Beeber.

“Didn’t know that, and now I’m a little bit nervous,” Washington Heights resident Raphael Villegas said.

Some parkgoers were not deterred by the violence.

“I love this park. I feel the odds are still with me, and the police are great,” a man named Carl told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.

People who spoke with Kozar told them they believe the park is safer than it used to be.

“I feel pretty safe, even at night,” Sabina Lindmark said. “I always feel like there are always a lot of people in the park.”

“I think things have cleaned up so much now,” Jill Saward said. “This is why we’re here. This is why we keep returning. We feel safe.”

Police have no suspects and have made no arrests in either case.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he’s not concerned.

“Those events of those incidents, no relationship to each other. Every one in a while you have that aberration. That park remains one of the safest places in America,” said Bratton.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Bratton said the robberies were unrelated, and a total aberration in a very safe park that until this weekend saw only four robberies since the beginning of the year.

“Do we have any real concern about an uptick in crime there? No, not at all,” Bratton said. “And with the public’s help, we’ll get the three – the two instances, the single person involved in the robbery.”

Still, Chief of Patrol James O’Neill said a greater police presence will be visible in Central Park.

“In the coming days, you’ll see an increased uniformed presence. You’ll also see an increase in scooters, and cars with their lights on,” O’Neill said. “We understand how important Central Park is and we want to make sure everybody in that park stays safe.”

As police search for the suspects, they’re also asking people to remain vigilant, especially as they walk through the park at night.

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