Cal Anderson rangers to the rescue? City to announce new plan to make park safer — UPDATE

Acting SPD chief Jim Pugel at Thursday's announcement

Acting SPD chief Jim Pugel at Thursday’s announcement

Marches, rallies and block watches are one thing. Law enforcement feet on the street — or in the park — are quite another

In a plan to be unveiled Thursday, Seattle officials will announce that a Cal Anderson ranger will be assigned to the park after a spate of violence and complaints about the public space including two recent stabbings. UPDATE: Details on the plan for the new rangers are below.

Details of the plan and its funding will be announced Thursday but CHS is told a ranger will patrol the park for a set number of hours each week to help quell the recent increase in crime around the area.

Seattle Parks manages the rangers program. The rangers are not police officers and there has been controversy in the past over putting unarmed personnel with less rigorous training in law enforcement situations. How those details will play out in solving the issues in Cal Anderson will need to be spelled out at City Hall on Thursday morning.

UPDATE: Mayor Mike McGinn announced Thursday that two new park rangers will be hired to patrol Cal Anderson and Occidental parks. The program will cost around $150,000 a year and is being paid for via “underspend” by the parks department.

“They deserve to be safe and they deserve to enjoy themselves,” acting SPD chief Jim Pugel said of visitors to the parks where there, as Pugel put it, have been ”a few incidents of interpersonal violence.”

The most recent spate of bad news for Cal Anderson started with a reported sexual assault in the park on May 5th. Police have provided no further updates on the case since the initial report. On May 12th, a man was seriously wounded in a knife attack following an argument over an off-leash pit bull in the park. The suspect in that incident was arrested and has been charged in the assault. Another stabbing on May 16th stemmed from what the victim said was a misunderstanding between him and his assailant who were friends of friends hanging out in the park. There have been no arrests in the May 16th incident.

Even without the higher profile incidents, residents and people who work in the area are aware that Cal Anderson faces some seasonal personal safety challenges. Here is what one resident said in the CHS Comments earlier this month:

FIRST, a big thanks from this Broadway neighborhood family. We have lived on the hill for 27 years & have great respect & gratitude for the service/relations of the SPD with our neighborhood. We are a middle aged lefty couple who truly loves the diversity & edge of the neighborhood. Our son is returning from college soon & will surely enjoy many hours in the park this summer…..We are not wimpy or whiny. Until now.

We are writing to you about CAL ANDERSON park and the need for increased patrols ASAP. Last spring, we had the flare of crime, squeaky wheels, media coverage & then the requisite responding & massive police presence in the park. Things got under control and then the coverage drifted away.

Can we cut to the chase this year & go to an early middle ground of increased police patrol of the park? PLEASE.

Meanwhile, SPD’s statistics show that, for the first three months of 2013, overall crime is down across Capitol Hill.

The new rangers will patrol as a pair across the two parks on a schedule to be determined in conjunction with SPD.

East Precinct commander Capt. Ron Wilson called the plan to add the rangers a “terrific collaboration” but also said he has redirected his community police team and other available resources to spend more time on foot and on bike in the park. The SPD’s mounted unit will also be utilized in Cal Anderson more often. Meanwhile, Wilson said emphasis patrols for spring and summer have already begun in busy areas of Broadway and Pike/Pine.

Wilson said that while the rangers will not patrol the park during hours when it is closed, East Precinct officers are regularly patrolling the space around closing hours to move people along.

Seattle Parks currently employs four full-time rangers and one part-timer. The two new positions need to be hired and trained before beginning patrols.

Cal Anderson visitors are encouraged to seek out the rangers once their patrols begin to alert them to issues in the park or ask for assistance. No details yet on where you might find the rangers but Parks tells us you can call (206) 255-8325 to reach the unit.

Here’s the full announcement from City Hall:

Mayor announces new Park Rangers for Cal Anderson Park and Occidental Square

Police and Parks respond to recent public safety incidents

 

SEATTLE – Mayor Mike McGinn and Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel announced today that they are investing in public safety in Seattle parks by hiring two new Park Rangers to patrol Cal Anderson Park and Occidental Square full-time. This announcement comes in the wake of several high-profile incidents of violence in local parks, particularly Cal Anderson.

“We heard from the community that this was an issue, that people weren’t feeling safe or able to fully utilize these parks, so we’re responding to those concerns” said Mayor McGinn. “By hiring new Park Rangers, we can create a safer and more welcoming atmosphere in our parks. And we’re asking park users to be proactive as well – our officers need your help to keep our parks safe. We encourage you to call 911 when you see any kind of disturbance or crime in our parks.”

The funds for the new Park Rangers will come from underspent Seattle Parks and Recreation operating budget dollars. Through careful management, Seattle Parks and Recreation was able to stay under budget this year, allowing the city to make this investment at a critical time.

“Park Rangers are key to the city’s efforts to keep Seattle parks safe” said Parks Security Supervisor Corby Christensen. “We remind park users of the rules, moderate disputes that can sometimes arise over things like use of playfields, and keep an eye on the park in general. We work closely with Seattle Police officers to address issues as they arise. I encourage all park users to approach Park Rangers with any questions or concerns you may have. We need the public to be actively involved in our efforts to keep our parks safe.”

“Thank you to the Mayor’s Office, Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Police Department for listening to concerns from the community and acting on them” said Michael Wells, President of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. “Having a full-time Park Ranger on duty in Cal Anderson will make a huge difference in the way people perceive the park.”

The new Park Rangers will be hired, trained and on duty by the end of June, just in time for summer weather. In the meantime, police will contribute to this effort with emphasis patrols in Cal Anderson and Occidental, with existing Parks employees working overtime to create a safer atmosphere in these parks as well as others. Parks will be working with police to determine optimal shift schedules for the rangers to most effectively deter crime.

“With the warmer weather we are seeing an increase in public safety issues in Cal Anderson Park. We’ve begun several new approaches in response” said East Precinct Commander Captain Ron Wilson. “Our Anti-Crime Team will be spending more time proactively working to address public safety issues within the park and surrounding neighborhoods.  Patrol officers will be making more frequent visits during park closure times to ensure all is well. Our Community Police Team has begun to assist our patrol resources by outfitting some of their officers with bicycle uniforms. These bicycle-trained CPT Officers will periodically break away from their traditional role in order to expand police presence in various hotspot areas within the East Precinct.”

26 thoughts on “Cal Anderson rangers to the rescue? City to announce new plan to make park safer — UPDATE

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  2. While I applaud this action and I think the ranger should help with some of the issues at Cal Anderson the city should really consider creating a separate force similar to the transit or port police to patrol parks that have crime problems. A Parks Police could patrol Cal Anderson and other parks with recurring crime problems.

  3. A park ranger who is unarmed may be in just as much trouble as anyone else in the park, except if they call the police they may show up faster.
    I actually saw a police car parked in the park between the two fountains at 6:30 AM this weekend.

  4. This will be helpful, but it’s not enough to effectively quell all the illegal activities there. I feel concerned for the ranger…that will be a very challenging and dangerous job, if he/she is actually intervening in criminal activity. Or will the ranger simply observe and call police as necessary?

    At a minimum, the nightly park closure needs to be enforced by the SPD, with regular foot patrols and forced eviction of any campers. This will put a damper on the sense of entitlement the transients have…that they can hang out in that park 24/7, without any real repercussions. And Animal Control officers should patrol there too, and enforce the leash law.

    • An unarmed Animal Control officer is an even worse idea than an unarmed park ranger. Also, it would have to come out of funds from the animal control budget. Good luck with that.

      Plus, it’s not necessary. Police can issue citations for animal violations anyway.

  5. It’s a start. And the ranger assigned can get a good idea about what’s actually going on here and can then make recommendations to other authorities, perhaps. It’s a start.

  6. Sometimes just the presence of a authority figure wearing a uniform can deter crimes. It should help, probably won’t stop everything, but when these crack heads and criminals know that someone is watching them, more than likely they will go somewhere else. I work security, and 90% of the time when we ask people to move along for smoking weed, or drinking in public, they do just that. They move along with no problems. The only downside to this is we are pushing our problem off on another property owner.

  7. If only Cal Anderson was right next to the Starbucks on Olive people would be more safe as there are usually 2-3 on duty SPD officers in there chilling. I think we just need more patrolling of the park by actual police officers at night or station a car in the immediate vicinity…

    • Last I checked, SPD was paying for a couple spots in that parking lot. I’ve seen them staging there and then moving out in a hurry for a raid/bust/something.

      I imagine they use it because it’s more accessible to the NW side of the Hill than the precinct is.

    • So JMH…SPD is not allowed to take breaks? Eat lunch? Get a coffee and use the bathroom… You know, the stuff that’s listed in EMPLOYMENT law?

      • Good point, Expert. It such a facile cliché to comment on police officers drinking coffee and eating donuts. If you want to criticize the SPD, at least some up with some substantive arguments.

  8. They need to send in SPD on bikes with spotlights at random. Those that are up to no good will scatter like roaches once they are illuminated. Overtime, they may disband and disappear.

  9. I still think the problem is solved when every officer is required to do a park walk around every time they return to the precinct. What would that take? 10 minutes each?

    • it’s good in theory, Prost, but they’re all on the same shift so it wouldn’t take much for the slime that hangs out in the park to figure out when NOT to be there.

      what we’re getting here is a low cost answer to the problem. Notice the solution is NOT coming from SPD’s budget.

      If we want more police presence, we need to ante up more $$. wish there was another answer, but that’s it in a nutshell

  10. They need to patrol late at night and kick out campers. I walk there on my way to work every day and at 8:30am it looks like a campground.

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  12. Well it’s about friggin time they did SOMETHING, but I still don’t understand why none of the bajillions of cops I see lurking around Capitol Hill can just take turns patrolling it? It’s one block from your precinct, there’s no excuse! GAH.

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