Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today called for answers regarding a prior confrontation involving the victim and suspect in Wednesday’s Central Park sexual assault. In a letter sent to the NYPD and Parks Department today, de Blasio questioned why no formal report was filed two weeks ago, what policies are in place to respond when allegations of criminal conduct are brought forward, and—in light of sustained budget cuts—whether there are sufficient resources to protect park-goers.
Read the full letter below:
September 15, 2012
Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
New York City Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038
Commissioner Veronica White
New York, NY, 10065
Dear Commissioner Kelly and Commissioner White:
I write today with a growing unease over the provision of security in our City’s public parks. In a little over one week, there have been three brutal sexual assaults within New York City parks. I am particularly concerned over a report in today’s New York Times that the 73-year-old woman who was raped in Central Park had come forward after an earlier encounter with her attacker, yet there was no apparent enforcement or investigatory action taken. These deeply troubling incidents raise serious, pressing concerns over the capacity of the Department of Parks and Recreation and New York City Police Department to ensure the security and safety of our public spaces.
I am concerned that the recent upticks in violent crime point to a larger problem of an under resourced security infrastructure in our parks. Since the mid-1990s, we have seen the headcount for Park Enforcement officers diminished considerably. We now have fewer than 100 Parks Enforcement officers across all five boroughs. The New York City Police Department has similarly seen considerable headcount reductions, further compounding the deficiency in our public safety resources and park security. With approximately 52,000 acres of urban parkland to secure, I am deeply concerned over the impact this diminished commitment is having on park security.
Despite these resource limitations, under no circumstances is it acceptable to disregard reports of criminal activity. The public deserves greater clarity regarding the responsibilities of Park Enforcement officers and NYPD officers to respond to crime and ensure public safety in parks. In light of this, I request clarity on the following points:
- What actions were taken by the New York City Police Department and Department of Parks and Recreation in response to the Central Park rape victim’s initial allegations of criminal conduct two weeks ago?
- At the time of the initial report, did park rangers or police officers secure the photographic evidence of criminal conduct for use in their investigation?
- In light of resource cuts, does the Department of Parks and Recreation have adequate resources and sufficient numbers of Park Enforcement officers to provide security in City parks? How many officers are presently available for security purposes?
- Has the NYPD altered or reduced routine patrols of City parks?
- What is the standard protocol for the Parks Department and NYPD as it pertains to documenting reports of criminal activity within City parks?
Protecting and securing our New York City parks is our collective responsibility. Under no circumstances can we derogate from this basic commitment to public safety. Officers act as an essential deterrent to criminal activity, and play an important enforcement role when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. They must be adequately resourced and empowered. Ultimately, when a report is made of a criminal act within the park, it is imperative that safety officers and police enforcement adequately – and immediately – respond.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York