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Queens Chronicle

Violent crime in parks rises by 23 percent

Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one of the most dangerous in city

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Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:30 am

Violent crime in New York City parks increased by 23 percent in the nine months between July 2015 and March, according to NYPD data compiled by NYC Park Advocates compared to the same period a year before.

The statistics for Central Park, which has a police precinct dedicated to it, were not included in that analysis — but the group said it sees more crime than any other city park with Flushing Meadows Corona Park coming in at No. 2.

Queens parks saw 181 reported violent and nonviolent crimes happen in the year between April 2015 and March 31 out of a total of 974 in the entire city, the second lowest of the five boroughs, according to the analysis.

Although overall crime was shown to have gone up by just 2.97 percent in the nine-month period, murders tripled (six compared to two in an earlier period), four more rapes happened in the time analyzed, and there were 33 more robberies and 36 more felony assaults.

The analysis was released days after Karina Vetrano was murdered in Howard Beach’s Spring Creek Park, which is federal, possibly after being sexually assaulted.

However, Flushing Meadows Corona Park saw the highest number of all types of crimes — 49 — happen of the parks reviewed during the year-long period. Seventeen of them were violent. The park was also the highest in the year-long period for grand larceny of motor vehicles with four and burglaries with six. Rufus King Park had the largest amount of rapes during the time frame, which was three.

“I’m not surprised, unfortunately,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) told the Chronicle. “I think crime is on the increase across the board even though some of the statistics are not showing it.”

Avella has introduced legislation into the state’s upper chamber to make the NYPD and Parks Department submit reports about crime in all kind of parks — recreation centers, beaches, pools and playgrounds to the City Council.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) reacted similarly to the finding that Flushing Meadows Corona Park had the highest amount of crimes out of the green spaces analyzed.

“It’s shocking that there’s so much crime in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and it’s actually increasing,” Lancman said. “On the other hand, it’s not that surprising because the city has ignored and neglected Flushing Meadows Corona Park for decades and this mayor hasn’t chosen to turn things around.”

The councilman has urged the Parks Department to dramatically increase the number of park enforcement patrol officers in Flushing Meadows.

“We don’t have enough park enforcement officers, we don’t have enough general maintenance staff to make the parks look nice and clean and orderly,” Lancman added. “It’s a natural consequence of the administration’s inattention.”

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said that the crime increase has to do with the outer boroughs being neglected by the Parks Department. Although it has the most parkland, Queens has the fewest PEP officers of any borough.

“I think it demonstrates the fact that the folks in Manhattan forgot about the parks in Queens,” Stavisky said. “Our parks have always been secondary to Central Park and the Brooklyn parks.”

The Parks Department declined to comment.

“Crime in city parks is less than 1% of all reported crime in New York City during that same period,” an NYPD spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

A spokeswoman for the mayor questioned the accuracy of the violent crime increase over the nine-month period, but the Chronicle verified it.

“Crime across the city is at an all-time low — and crimes in parks remain rare. Just like they do on the streets, NYPD is focusing resources on trouble spots using a model of precision policing that has made our city the safest big city in America,” the spokeswoman said.

NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft says that the actual level of crime is higher than the reported amount in the NYPD data in the analysis made by his organization.

“Crime is underreported,” Croft said, explaining that violent crimes happen in the parks that NYC Park Advocates are aware of but for which the victims do not file reports with the police.

“Obviously, there’s virtually no enforcement there,” Croft said of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. “It’s very, very, very sporadic. You also have a very large number of people using it.”

According to Croft, it is second only to Central Park in terms of overall crime.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) criticized remarks made by NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel to The Wall Street Journal in which he which said that less than 1 percent of crime in New York City happens in its parks.

“Explain that to someone who gets mugged, explain that to someone who gets raped, explain that to someone who gets hurt in the park,” Peralta said. “Explain to [Karina Vetrano’s] father how parks are safe.”

Earlier this year, Peralta, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) wrote to Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo urging that a 110th Precinct substation be created for Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

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