Crime Soars in Central Park

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Police contend it’s not fair to compare with last year’s lows

By Gavin Aronsen

Crime in Central Park has risen 40 percent since last year, according to recently released figures by New York Police Department statistics.

But the media has exaggerated the significance of the figure because crime hit an all-time low in the park in 2009, said Central Park Precinct Capt. Philip Wishnia.

Captain Philip Wishnia. Photo by: Andrew Schwartz

Capt. Wishnia said the majority of reported crimes in the park this year were comprised of grand larcenies, mostly for the theft of unattended property. There have been seven rapes, he said, six of which were perpetrated by acquaintances of the victims.

He presented the figures Nov. 8 at the Central Park Precinct Community Council’s final meeting of the year, at the Fourth Universalist Society of New York on the Upper West Side.

“We’re on course to have an average year,” Wishnia said.

Over the past seven years, he said, there have been an average of about 100 crimes annually in the park.

So far this year, 91 crimes have been reported, up from 65 in 2009. From Oct. 11 through Nov. 7 this year, two crimes—a grand larceny and an assault for which an arrest was made—were reported, down from six during the same period last year, Wishnia said.

In an attempt to curb unattended property thefts in the park, the NYPD began conducting “lucky bag” operations where police recreate past crimes by placing property on park benches and then confronting people who take it, offering them the chance to return it to avoid arrest.

“What we wanted to see were professional grand larcenists coming into the park,” Wishnia said. “That’s not what we’re seeing.”

Instead, about 90 percent of the 23 people arrested this year in lucky bag stings had no criminal history. “Lucky Bag” sting figures weren’t included in the crime statistics.

Although critics have accused police of entrapment for the practice, the NYPD plans to continue it into next year, and Wishnia said it has been a success so far.

Manhattan Parks Enforcement Patrol Capt. Benne McCants praised Wishnia for improving communication between police and McCants’ patrol, which the two men said has helped in the apprehension of criminal suspects.

Radio communication drills are conducted each month in the park, Wishnia said, and there are 30 locations throughout the park where cameras are located.

Wishnia “creates a situation where everybody’s involved,” McCants said.

McCants also said his patrol has been in contact with the City Council in an effort to reduce the number of pedicab drivers in the park.

Also during the meeting, a representative from the Manhattan district attorney’s office advised against falling victim to Internet identity theft scams, and several people called for caution during the holiday season.

“Keep in mind, everyone wants to take a piece of what you have,” said David Giordano, the council’s executive board president.

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