Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program. The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.
PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons. They also review park facilities for health and safety issues. There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks. There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.
Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland. Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.
The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.
In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.
Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing:
- NY1: Parks Enforcement Force Stretched Too Thin, Some Say
- NY1 Noticias: Pocos uniformados patrullan vecindarios pobres de la ciudad, según informe
- New York Times: City Council Questions Distribution of Park Officers
- WNYC: Parks’ Safety Resources Aren’t Distributed Equally, Council Members Say
- DNA Info: Uptown Parks Short on Security Officers, Advocates Say
- Epoch Times: NYC Council Hearing Reveals Park Patrol Disparity
- Metro: Crime: Hidden dangers lurk in New York’s parks
- Daily News: City Council to address usage of Parks Department officers