Despite the fact that city Police Department crime statistics for borough parks have fluctuated over the past year, residents and park goers are still concerned about too-few PEP officers patrolling parks.
“We are always concerned with park security in Juniper [Valley Park],” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. “We’d like to see more of the PEP officers and urge the mayor and City Council to provide additional funding to hire more officers.”
Holden said that in Juniper there is a “nightly problem” of teens hanging out after the park closes at 9 p.m. and that vandalism has always been an issue.
“We need PEP to patrol the park and protect our beautiful park on a DAILY schedule,” he said, adding that the 104th Precinct is one of the busiest in the city and area cops are logistically unable to give the park the attention that it needs.
But the reality of PEP officers in the city is that they are vastly understaffed and also underpaid, according to their union representative.
Joe Puleo, president of District Council 37’s Local 983, which represents more than 3,000 city workers, including PEP officers, said that there are about 240 publicly-paid PEP officers citywide and another 100 officers paid through private parks organizations.
Queens has only about 20 PEP officers for the entire borough. Puleo added that it is not at all uncommon for people to not see any PEP officers due to their having to cover beaches, such as Rockaway, which is more than seven miles long.
Puleo, a former PEP officer who patrolled Forest Park in the 1990s, said that the reasons for the scarcity of officers are mainly tied to money.