NYPD beefing up Central Park patrols after string of robberies

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, October 13, 2016
NYPD beefs up patrols in Central Park
Carolina Leid has an exclusive look at the NYPD's stepped up patrols in Central Park.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The NYPD is boosting patrols in Central Park following a string of frightening incidents.

Police say there have been five robberies in the park since September 16, some of them violent in nature.

A woman jogging in the park on Monday night was attacked by a man who dragged her into a wooded area and tried to sexually assault her, while a man on a bike was approached by a group of teens who knocked him to the ground and stole his phone.

Authorities believe members of that group are connected to several other incidents.

Members of the scooter task force, on patrol Wednesday, have a distinct advantage.

"We're effective because we're able to access areas that most police officers can't get to like in cars or by foot," said Lt. Patrick Moynihan. "There's over 800 acres of land in Central Park. We're able to get to a lot of areas they're not able to cover."

His unit gets into dark wooded areas where criminals may be lurking. "A lot of areas that are restricted to people," said Moynihan. "With the lights we are able to monitor a lot of things you don't see on the roads."

Police are also patrolling in cars, on foot, by horseback and in some cases in plainclothes.

Kemberly Richardson has the latest details.

Besides stepping up patrols, officers are warning park visitors and handing out flyers in the search for possible witnesses. So far, no arrests have been made.

While overall crime and robberies are down this year, the NYPD is issuing a reminder.

"Everyone is welcomed to use the park, it is still the safest park bar none. Just use common sense," said Captain Christopher McIntosh.

The East Drive loop is popular with runners and cyclists during the day, but many say they wouldn't feel safe there at night. That includes Diana Calantoni, who was on it Tuesday morning training for the marathon.

"It's a bit desolate up in this area," she said. "There are people around, but when it's dark, someone can quickly grab you. So I really try to be cognizant of that and just stay on the lower loop at that time."

The NYPD has responded to 15 robberies in the park this year, down 35 percent over last year. Still, many say they would not be out at that time of night unless they were with other people.

"I probably wouldn't be out here at that hour," runner Jason Isanberg said. "It's just not good to anywhere that's isolated where there's not a lot of people."

Nickki Fitzgerald sometimes walks her dog Diego that late at night in that area of the park.

"I pay attention and I don't carry my cell phone or nothing with me," she said. "I have just my keys, but I also have something in my pocket to protect me."

While police say there has been an uptick in crime in Central Park, people need to keep their wits.

"They want to get out and exercise, sometimes it's difficult to find a partner but you definitely have to be aware of your surroundings," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said.