By Alex Christodoulides
The police and city agreed to start the program with the four largest parks in each borough – which in Queens are Alley Pond, Cunningham, Flushing Meadows Corona and Forest parks – with plans to expand the scope of the program in the future. Now Kissena and Rockaway Community/Edgemere parks have joined the list.City Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said they have long sought to have the NYPD report crimes in most city parks and introduced a bill to that effect in the City Council in 2005. Last week the list of parks was expanded by two per borough.”These are statistics that people didn't know until Joe Addabbo and I put forward this legislation,” Vallone said.Advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks recently put together a report of crimes committed, using statistics compiled through Addabbo and Vallone's legislation, and found that 308 crimes were committed in the parks currently included on the list. Flushing Meadows Corona Park ranked second citywide in the number of crimes committed, but Vallone stressed that the numbers do not show a complete picture.”Flushing Meadows has more crime than any park outside Manhattan, but once you take out crimes committed at Shea and Arthur Ashe stadiums and Terrace on the Park,” the numbers decrease, Vallone said. “These statistics show that our parks are as safe as the rest of the city, which is very safe.”The original legislation calls for the list to include all city parks by 2010, but Vallone is skeptical that will happen in the near future thanks to recruitment difficulties and the methods the NYPD uses to collect the data.”We're pleased they [the NYPD] made the effort and put the 10 parks in, but we need to improve police data collection methods,” Vallone said.Precincts enter crime data using the nearest address or cross streets, which creates difficulties when tracking crimes in parks, which often lack both. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for instance, is patrolled by the 110th Precinct, which must then go through its reports after the fact to determine which crimes occurred inside the park, and by Parks Enforcement Police officers, who are Parks Department employees.”It's difficult to police an area that size. We need more officers and we need more PEP officers,” Vallone said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.