NEW YORK—The largest parks in New York City saw a 7 percent rise in crimes committed in 2012 compared with the prior year and some blamed the increase on understaffing, it was reported Wednesday.
In 2011, there were 331 major felonies committed in the 31 largest parks across the city. But in 2012, there were 354 major felonies, according to New York Police Department data.
“It’s very significant in that once crime starts increasing, it’s much more difficult to get it back under control—it’s like turning an ocean liner,” Council Member Peter Vallone told The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the crime increase. “This ocean liner is picking up speed in the wrong direction,” he added.
The 354 major felonies committed in the largest parks is the highest amount in five years, the report said. They include 170 incidents of grand larceny, 95 cases of robbery, 39 cases of assault, 23 cases of burglary, nine cases of auto theft, seven cases of rape, and one case of murder. There were two murders in the city’s largest parks in 2011.
The Journal cited a local advocacy group in saying that there are not enough Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers on hand to police the city’s parks.
“It would be better to have more PEP officers than the number that we have today,” Holly Leicht, the executive director for the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, told the Journal. “The staffing issues at parks are very real. There is no question that they are putting their fingers in the dike and trying to pull together a massive—both maintenance and security—operation on a pretty bare bones staff.”
Leicht said she was concerned that the city only looks at crime in the 31 largest parks, instead of keeping track of parks more than one acre in size.
The rise in parks’ crime is consistent with the overall increase in major felonies citywide last year when major felonies rose by 4.2 percent. All five boroughs saw an increase in crime—the first time that happened in 20 years.
New York City’s Parks & Recreation looks after around 29,000 acres of land, or approximately 14 percent of the city, which includes more than 5,000 separate properties.
Largest Parks in NYC:
Pelham Bay Park Bronx -- 2,765 acres
Greenbelt, Staten Island -- 1,778 acres
Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx -- 1,146 acres
Flushing Meadows/Corona Park, Queens -- 898 acres
Central Park, Manhattan -- 843 acres
Marine Park, Brooklyn -- 798 acres
Bronx Park, Bronx -- 718 acres
Alley Pond Park, Queens -- 655 acres
Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk, South and Midland Beaches, Staten Island 638 acres
Forest Park, Queens 544 acres