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Queens Chronicle

Park crimes — the NYPD’s territory

Response to Windmuller Park incidents send mixed message

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:45 am, Thu Apr 18, 2013.

According to Woodside resident Susan Santangelo, the 108th Precinct said incidents at Windmuller Park including a fire in the bandshell, vandalism and fights are the Parks Department’s purview, not the NYPD’s.

“[An officer] said it’s the Parks, not the precinct,” Santangelo said at a Community Board 2 meeting last Thursday.

“That’s an interesting comment. We’ll look into this,” CB 2 chairman Joe Conley said. “Call 911, not the Parks Department.”

Interesting and incorrect.

If there is a crime being committed in a park, the police should be called, according to Sgt. Brendan Ryan.

“If there are crimes in the park it’s the police’s responsibility to investigate,” Ryan said. “Any criminal activity, the public should report to the police.”

There are no formal complaints of a fire in the bandshell, which allegedly occurred last year, according to the NYPD; however, there are reports teenagers skateboard in the performance space, which may have discolored the dome, Ryan said.

“If it’s criminal call the police. Maybe the question was misheard?” Ryan said of Santangelo’s statement.

The 108th Precinct didn’t speak on the record about the comment.

“I have no doubt [the residents] were given the wrong information,” said Councilman and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria). “I have been hearing reports about this all over the city. Victims have been getting the run around for years.”

An officer from Police Service Area 9, which patrols New York public housing complexes, agreed that even with crimes in a park the police should be called. If a resident would like graffiti cleaned up after the act, then that would be a Parks Department matter, he said.

Parks has officers who patrol and can take action if they come upon illegal activity, but they do not receive 911 calls, the officer added.

On March 5, Parks Department Commissioner Veronica White and Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski announced the city would hire 81 new park enforcement patrol officers citywide — almost doubling the current force. Thirty-nine officers have entered the eight-week training process so far. How many officers will be assigned to each borough is undecided.

“They can’t get into Queens parks soon enough,” Vallone said. “For the last five years they haven’t put one new PEP officer into Queens parks and that’s outrageous.”

Currently there are 86 PEP officers citywide, according to Parks spokesman Phil Abramson.

The announcement of more PEP officers, given at an Astoria Civic Association meeting last month, comes on the heels of an 8 percent increase in park crimes. Citywide crime has risen 4 percent.

Last summer, following reported crimes in Windmuller Park, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) asked the 108th Precinct to beef up their patrol in the park, which they did.

As the weather warms up this year,Van Bramer will request increased patrol again.

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