NEW YORK (PIX11)—NYC locals and tourists alike are facing a double dose of problems when enjoying New York City Parks: a dire lack of officers and drastic under reporting of crime statistics inside city parks.
"The public has no idea how little protection there is," says Officer Joe Puleo, the head of the Union that represents the Park Enforcement Patrol Officers as he walks along the bike path next to the dense bushes where a woman was raped this weekend.
That pre-dawn rape of a TriBeCa woman is putting a face on the cold reality of budget slashing in the parks patrols ranks.
When asked if Puleo thinks the public has any idea how few officers are dedicated to their safety inside parks, he didn't hesitate. "No. I really think they are unaware."
Parks Enforcement Police are solely dedicated to patrolling city parks--yet their numbers have been decimated to dangerous lows. Just 91 officers citywide are on the job, leaving only two to three officers per shift to cover an entire borough, and only a handful of those parks have anyone on the overnight shift.
The exception: five parks that have contracted out Parks' Officers through private fundraising to patrol them. One of the those parks? Hudson River Park, where two Parks' officers were there to help capture the most latest victim's rapist as she ran naked and screaming from the bushes that she had just been raped--and the officers corralled the attacker to a median on the West Side Highway until NYPD officers came to arrest him. Had they not been there opening the park, the woman's attacker may have continued strangling, or worse.
When questioned by reporters at a press conference on Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a response he's given before about crime and cops. "We can't put a cop on every corner."
"This is the fourth reported rape in the last three weeks in city parks. This is obviously a very serious issue," summed up Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks' Advocates. His is the only organization to aggregate and report crimes in parks even though the NYC Council is legally mandated to do so--but points out the NYPD is only providing crime stats for a mere 31 parks across the five boroughs.
Croft points out, "It's a very important law because the public has a right to know if these things are happening in their communities, in their parks."