Safe Parks Program Helps Cut Crime, Police Say

A Los Angeles Police Department program targeting the 71 most crime-plagued parks in the city was credited Monday for helping cut violent crime by 27%--more than three times the citywide decline in crime.

Police Capt. Kirk Albanese said he believes the steep drop in crime is partly attributable to a decision two years ago to step up police and ranger patrols in the 71 locations that are part of the Safe Parks program.

"The level of commitment in those parks by the department has been considerable," Albanese told members of the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday.

A report on the first three months of the year shows that the number of violent crimes in the parks dropped to 84 from 115 during the same period last year.

City Councilman Mike Feuer, noting there are only 43 rangers for 375 parks, questioned whether there was a sufficient security presence in the parks to play a role in the decline in crime.

Acting Chief Ranger Charles Shorts warned that the greater emphasis on fighting crime has taken rangers away from traditional programs of guiding children on nature hikes.

"There is a huge amount of schools that we turn down weekly," Shorts said. "We have switched our emphasis to security."

Ellen Oppenheim, general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, said she plans to hire 20 more park patrol officers this year so that rangers can spend more of their time as nature educators for children.

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