New York’s Midtown North is made up of several precincts, with one unique in the city: the CPP, or Central Park Precinct. The precinct is home to 42 species of birds year round, with up to 300 species sighted there at various seasons, and there are also squirrels, birds, fish, rabbits, turtles, frogs and other animals. There are not, however, any human residents. There is an enormous amount of human activity occupying the 840 acres of land and 150 acres of water. In addition to 58 miles of pedestrian paths, 6 miles of vehicle drives and almost 5 miles of bridle paths, there are also world-class attractions, including:
1. Tavern on the Green Restaurant
5. Loeb Boathouse (miniature sailboat club)
11. Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
14. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYPD Web site)
The park itself was designed in 1858 by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, two giants of architecture of the period. The nation’s first designated public park, Central Park is laid out so that, even when the park is full of people and events, there are hidden, quiet places as well as open fields. Although between 16 and 20 million people visit the park each year, it is possible to feel completely alone with nature among the park’s 26,000 trees. (One can also play tennis on 30 courts, or ball on 26 ball fields or swim in a pool at the northern end, or ride a merry-go-round not far from the Central Park Zoo.) (NYPD Web site)
In addition, the “Delacorte Theatre has ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ from mid June through the end of August each year. The Central Park Summerstage, located at Rumsey Playground – E. 72 St. and the East Drive, has free performances from June through the beginning of August on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 pm. The New York Grand Opera has free performances at various times throughout the summer”(NYPD Web site).
It seems that of all the precincts in New York City, the CPP is uniquely appropriate for Problem-Oriented Policing.
In addition, because of New York’s position as a ‘world city’ and after 9/11, the NYPD has also benefited from learning how to ‘surge,’ a tactic that can be invaluable in a precinct where incidents are likely to happen at odd times at specific locations. Surging has lately been perfected for putative terrorist activities “At least three times a day, New York’s intelligence division sends 100 officers to swarm a specific location that their information suggests could be a target. It’s called a surge” (Montaigne, 2005). When a surge happens, officers spend the five or six hours after it fanning out into the neighborhood, shops and subway, asking questions and looking for anything suspicious.
In 2004 and so far in 2005, there have been no murders in Central Park, and only one rape in 2005. Robbery, however, has increased, with none 6 in 2005 to date, and 4 in 2004. Felonious assault is down ho3wever, from 4 in 2004 to 2 in 2005 to date. There was one burglary in 2004, none in 2005 to date. Grand Larceny is also may be down for the year. In 2004 there were 11, with 7 in 2005 to date.
Citywide, the murder rate is down, from 184 in 2004 to 161 in 2005 to date, for a 12.5 percent decrease at current rates. Rape is also down, from 627 in 2004 to 585 in 2005 today, a 6.7 percent rate of change. Robbery was up, however, from 7,638 for all of 2004 to 7,690 to date in 2005. Felonious assaults were down from 5,842 in 2004 to 5,430 t date in 2005, for a decrease of 7 percent. Burglaries were also down, from 9.981 in 2004 to 7,767 in 2005 to date, a 13.5 percent decrease. Grand larceny citywide was also down, although by only 1.8 percent, from 15,258 in 2004 to 14,976 in 2005 to date (NYPD Compstat).
These statistics are surprising, in view of the difficulties inherent in patrolling Central Park. In 1965, poet Robert Lowell published a poem called “Central Park” that seemed to expose precisely what was happening then.
each landscaped crag, each flowering
hides a policeman with a club” (Quoted by Vitullo-Martin, 2003).
Vitullo-Martin noted that “design elements that helped make the park a refuge from the city-secluded woodlands, hidden coves, paths that curve and dip from sight, Lowell’s flowering shrubs-also made the park hard to protect or patrol. Central Park’s fame and beauty made it a prized site for concerts, protests, marches, rallies and celebrations. But the huge crowds also attracted crime” (2003).
Arguably, the factor that made the difference between then and now can be attributed to the characteristics of Problem-Oriented Policing. Compstat is an integral part of that strategy, showing police captains at a glance where the trouble spots are, both geographically and in terms of types of crime. According to Moore (2005), Problem-oriented policing (POP) “is a police management philosophy that entails SARA: scanning to identify, specify, and describe specific problems to include analysis in which the causes of the identified problems are explored fully and response that refers to the search for ‘tailor made’ solutions to remove the specific or general causes of the problems through implementation of concepts supported by assessment concerning the process where the solutions implemented are evaluated in terms of effectiveness and strategies.” Although Moore’s definition sounds overly analytical, in fact, POP depends for success on all the ‘buzzword’ tactics of modern business: values, ethics, communication, vision and empowerment.
Glassoock, writing in the FBI Journal in 2001, noted that although POP initiatives have had an excellent affect on external, end-product issues-that is, reduction of crime-“it seems prudent and appropriate to also apply the concept to internal problems.”
Glassoock contends that the likelihood of success with the end product is “much influenced, if not driven, by the organization’s internal constitution” (2001). A department must, he says, attend to internal issues with thoughtful deliberation. In addition, he recommends that so-called “outsiders” such as citizens and business leaders be invited to contribute to initiatives, and goes so far as to say that “To the extent that a police department remains open to the inclusion of these individuals, the likelihood of successful internal problem-solving increases” (2001). As noted, successful internal operations-including communication and empowerment, especially-are essential to producing the end-product, lower crime rates.
New York City and especially the CCP, are heavily involved in just such efforts.
Chief among its programs are an Auxiliary Police Unit consisting of men and women from 17 to 60 years of age. They patrol the park in uniform acting as the eyes and ears of the police. There are 42 members, whose work is supplemented by the work of 42 Parkwatchers, “concerned citizens who keep a watchful eye on the park. When criminal activity is observed they report it to the police” (NYPD Web site). It is obvious that CCP, perhaps more than other city precincts, interacts frequently and effectively with non-officer personnel who are trusted with important work.
Another such outfit is the Roadrunners Safety Patrol. These helpers patrol in pairs and carry interwatch radios; there are 72 of them. An additional 70 New York Skaters Association members are also enlisted to provide information to the precinct (NYPD Web site).
Perhaps the most famous of the groups assisting the CCP is the Guardian Angel Patrol. There are 61 Guardian Angels trained and enlisted.
An essential part of the POP program is the Park Enforcement Patrol, or PEP. Established by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, it is a unformed patrol with the mission of providing safer parks, encouraging the public in the proper use of parks and discouraging the misuse and destruction of park property. “During the busy weekend and summer periods, and during all special events such as concerts and races, PEP officers patrol the park to help people enjoy the event and to keep order. If park users become ill or are injured, the PEP officer will provide first aid and request an ambulance and police. People in trouble and in need of assistance look for PEP officers. These specially trained officers also assist the N.Y.P.D. by enforcing quality of life violations in the park” (NYPD Web site).
Working with them is the only volunteer ambulance service in Central Park, the Central Park Medical Unit, which responds to accidents “involving park users, bicyclists, rollerbladers, joggers, etc.. The Central Park Medical Unit assists the N.Y.C.E.M.S.” (NYPD Web site).
The POP success doesn’t depend entirely on uniformed and/or trained volunteers, however. The CCP’s Robbery Reduction Unit consists of one Sergeant and five Police Officers who are deployed at “robbery prone locations” (NYPD Web site).
Non-police work also becomes part of the mission in a POP-driven unit such as CCP. For instance, in concert the Central Park Precinct Youth Officers and Community Police Unit conduct truancy sweeps (NYPD Web site).
While trying to keep kids in school, the precinct also tries to keep bicycles in the hands of their rightful owners. CCP runs a bicycle registration program in an effort to deter thefts (NYPD Web site).
A unique N-Force is a unit consisting of one sergeant and three police officers that focuses on quality of life conditions; they are deployed at “areas that the precinct commander designates as priority locations” (NYPD Web site).
In its dialog with the community, CCP also has a Community Council that meets with police officials to seek ways to solve local problems; the CCP council has 146 active members. Finally, CCP participates in a Thanksgiving Food Drive and a Winter Coat Drive, as well as Toys for Tots to help children in disadvantaged families (NYPD Web site).
The first item on the NYPD mission statement is “To protect life and property, reduce crime, improve the quality of life while dealing with the citizens of this city with courtesy, professionalism, and respect” (NYPD Web site). It is apparent both from the crime statistics in this ‘global playground’ and the number, range and type of community and quasi-police organizations that communications, values, vision and empowerment are working in this highly unusual precinct, in which there are no residents, but only visitors of every possible type and intent.
Glassoock notes that since the 1980s, “law enforcement agencies have applied the concept of problem-oriented policing to many community problems, such as alcohol-related crimes, burglaries, graffiti, sex offenses, and trespassing” all of which a precinct that was completely park and special-use structures would be prone to have. Glassoock notes that “Because POP emphasizes solving a problem as the dominant decision-making mode, officers attaining management positions must rethink their decision-making styles learned earlier in their careers. They must consider that the appropriateness of different decision-making styles varies depending upon whether officers are responding to calls or solving problems” (2001). It is apparent that CCP has been successful.
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