Police

Lack of NYPD surveillance raises safety concerns in local parks

Eileen Sepulveda

In front of Bill Rainey Park on Longwood Avenue.

Eleven-year old Issys Wiggins sits by her mother, her pencil and spiral notebook at hand. She sketches a little girl with a smiley face, surrounded by trees, a sun and some puffy clouds, lifting her head every so often. On Oct. 16 at a public safety meeting held at the New South Bronx PAL (Police Athletic League) center on Longwood Avenue, angered parents voiced their concerns about the safety of their children in recent months. 

Their main concern was the lack of police presence at the two local parks, Bill Rainey and Playground 52 LII, which underwent a 9.5 million transformation in 2017. One of the parents, Donisha Jordan, accompanied by her young daughter, ten-year old Amora, said she has noticed a lot of drug activity within Playground 52 and hopes something will get done soon. 

“I go in there sometimes with my daughter, usually we take our kids there for some free time after school. I have seen kids with their mothers and they are smoking marijuana, you could smell it when the wind blows. Maybe they can patrol the park,” said Jordan.

“When I go to the park, you feel very unsafe because you hear that there are a lot of park shootings, said eleven-year old Wiggins. She would also like to see the installation of non-smoking signs at 52 Park, “there are little girls and little boys in the park,” Wiggins added. 

The PAL center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers a free teen program that operates three to five nights per week, which runs from 6:30 to 9:30pm. Activities at the center include an open-gym, computer labs and a game-room. Center Director Tier’a Berry said the Bill Rainey park, a block away from the center is also “dangerous” for kids coming out late at night. The only thing visible to Berry, most of the time, is the NYPD light tower, which illuminates just a section of the park. 

Sergeant John Feng of the 41st Precinct was present along with about 10 officers. He said there is always an officer on duty alongside both park areas in a parked vehicle between 7:50 a.m. to 11:35 p.m. “The 41st precinct has the lowest crime rate in the city,” added Feng. 

NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison tweeted on Oct. 15, “This past weekend #NYC had no shootings, a milestone we haven’t reached in over a decade.”

“You doing’ a good job, keep it up,” said one of the residents at the meeting.

No police car was seen alongside Bill Rainey park or Playground 52 LII. The light tower Berry noted was turned on most of the time, was turned off at about 8 p.m., which left the Rainey park almost invisible, on the dark fall night. There is no light tower stationed by Playground 52 LII. Feng was not available for additional comments. 

Berry said she plans to set up a meeting to discuss a “shuttle dad/mom” program, which means she will ask parents to volunteer to accompany groups of kids home when they exit the program at night. She also said when she left work on Wednesday night the police light tower by Rainey was not on and will address the issue with authorities. 

Public safety meetings are held quarterly but no specific date or location for the next meeting is available as of yet, but residents can go to buildtheblock.nyc to find out. 

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