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A firm advocate of increased policing, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) applauded the city Parks Department’s hiring of more parks enforcement patrol officers come the 2014 fiscal year.
“These officers are a necessity,” Vallone said. “This is welcome news.”
The Parks Department said in an e-mail that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s fiscal year 2014 budget would account for 81 additional PEP officers who would enforce park rules and protect the parks. The budget also allows for an increase in additional parks staff, including 207 city park workers, 30 tree climbers and pruners, and 96 maintenance and trades workers, technicians and analysts to maintain various park and playground equipment, the Parks Department said.
Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, took up the call for more parks officers in fall 2012 after the union DC 37 Local 983 said Queens only had one Parks enforcement officer for all of its more than 400 parks, playgrounds, triangles and malls.
While the number was disputed by First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, who said the borough had 12 officers, Vallone insisted the Parks Department hire more, especially since many of the officers are called away to police the beaches and pools during the hot summer months.
Vallone said that 2012 statistics documented an 8 percent increase in crimes in parks last year compared to a 4 percent increase in crime citywide, making the new park officers crucial.
“More parks officers on patrol will be a welcome sight,” he said.
Despite the good news, Vallone said he is still fighting to ensure that Queens and the other outerboroughs get an adequate portion of Parks enforcement officers to patrol them. He said all Queens parks are deserving of protection and right now the borough has few of them.
“It’s not like we can say Queens has its fair share,” he said.
The councilman described parks as oases of solitude but said such solitude could make people unsafe. He urged park-goers to be aware of their surroundings at all times to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime.
“Crooks today are looking for people who are not paying attention,” Vallone said, “especially if they’re on the cellphone.”
Vallone has also advocated for more hiring of NYPD officers citywide in the past. He said crime rose in 2012 for the first time due to a citywide reduction in officers.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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