NBC 4 New York
A New York City councilman is concerned that an increase in crimes at city parks is a harbinger of more serious problems to come. Gus Rosendale reports.
A city councilman says he's concerned about a nearly 27 percent spike in park crimes since last year, but the Parks Department insists that the city's parks remain mostly very safe.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. says from January to June 2012, there were 128 reported crimes at parks across New York City. This year, from January to June 2013, there have been 162 crimes. That's a jump of 26.5 percent.
"We've been seeing the smaller crimes go up and up," said Vallone. "Anyone who has gone to our parks has seen they are dirtier. There are illegal vendors that should not be there."
"I'm concerned even an increase like this is a harbinger of things to come," he added.
Half of the crimes reported this year were in two parks: Central Park in Manhattan and Flushing Meadows in Queens. Violent crimes, like rape and murder, are more rare. And according to city data, parks overall are about 80 percent safer than they were 20 years ago.
"We have 300 parks that have no crime at all, and 35 million people go into Central Park," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "The numbers are extremely low."
Rebecca Vanbemmelen, a student at Yeshiva University who runs in Central Park, agrees.
"I never go alone but I feel safe here."
For Shuey Mirkin of Baltimore, the benefits of visiting the storied park outweighed any potential concerns: "Love it, the people, the energy."