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Activist blasts lack of crime stats in Queens parks

Members of the city Transit Bureau K9 Unit take part in the annual National Night Out Against Crime in Astoria Park.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city only tracks crime statistics for six of the borough’s parks — a fraction of the approximately 400 parks in Queens — according to an advocate for parks safety.

“The city has absolutely no idea [about] the level of crime in parks and that’s ridiculous,” said NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft.

He said that a 2005 law would have required the city to start keeping track of major felony crime complaints in all city parks an acre in size or larger, but the city has refused to fully comply with the law.

Croft said a loophole exists in the legislation that requires the NYPD to report park crime statistics only if it has the resources and necessary technology available. He also argued it does not make sense to only track crime that occurs in a small fraction of the city’s parks.

“The original bill is so weak it’s incredibly irresponsible,” Croft said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), one of the sponsors of the original bill, introduced legislation in May 2012 that would remove the loophole.

“I find it hard to believe that the NYPD does not possess the technology to keep accurate crime statistics for parks,” he said. “Their current method is more suited for an old episode of ‘Starsky and Hutch’ with cops sorting through police reports to determine whether a crime occurred in a park.”

Croft criticized Vallone for not also requiring the NYPD to keep track of crime that happens in parks less than an acre in size in the bill, however..

“It’s shameful that you would introduce a bill that covers only a portion of the parks,” he said.

But Vallone said he was concerned about overburdening an undermanned NYPD.

“With over 1,700 locations, we need the police to focus on the most highly trafficked parks,” he said.

A spokesman from Vallone’s office added that such crime statistics from smaller parks would not provide enough useful information to justify the massive amount of police time necessary.

The NYPD did not return a request for comment, but Croft said he did not think keeping track of crime in all parks would be difficult and should only require adding an extra line to fill out on a police complaint form and creating an extra field in a database system.

According to data on the NYC Parks Advocates website, the NYPD only tracks crime in Alley Pond, Cunningham, Flushing Meadows Corona, Forest, Kissena and Rockaway Community parks, some of the largest in Queens.

One of those, Forest Park, made headlines two weeks ago when police said a woman was attacked by a man who attempted to rape her after Tasering her but was scared off by a couple walking their dog.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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