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What Washington Square Park needs: Consistency, foot patrols and dialogue

Everynight Charley Crespo is constantly in both Washington Square Park and Tompkins Square Park checking out the live music scene and taking photos. Here he offers his thoughts on the current situation at Washington Square Park. The accompanying photos were taken around 11 p.m. in Washington Square on Wed., June 9, a weeknight. Police made some arrests in the park on this night, according to Crespo.

BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | The reason we are seeing an escalation of unbecoming behavior in the Downtown parks in recent weeks is because of the Parks and Police departments inconsistent and poorly planned strategies. Lawlessness has spiraled because the authorities are seldom seen walking among the people and they are not talking to the people in respectful, one-on-one dialogues.

The crowd in the park at 11 p.m. on a weeknight. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)
(Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

We have seen that the solution that the community seeks is not achieved by bullying. Parks and police personnel cannot bring peace and public safety with negative regulations posted on electronic signs, early curfews, arrests, confiscation of goods, armed forces in riot gear or bloodied heads. Instead, these tactics have increased the regularity and the spectacle of late-night violence.

An amplified band jamming on the south side of the fountain. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

The solution is prevention via consistent foot patrols and dignified person-to-person dialogue. Instead of trying to stop a rave after two hours, a foot patrol needs to approach the owners of the boom boxes or the DJ mixers as they begin unpacking their equipment — not after they gather a crowd — and explain that this activity would disturb the peace and so will not be allowed.

If Parks and police want to stop the dirt bike riders and the skateboarders, a foot patrol must tell these riders every day why this activity is a safety problem and warn them that if they are seen riding again they will be fined.

Twerking — and then some — in Washington Square Park. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

Drug dealing can be reduced if a foot patrol is regularly passing through the corridors where the drug dealers congregate and speaking to them eyeball to eyeball, so they understand that they are known.

The park was still crowded at 11 p.m. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

If Parks and police want to close the park at midnight, a foot patrol needs to walk up to groups of people beginning at 11:15 p.m. and inform them that the park will close shortly, not spring this news on them at midnight. Target the activities you want to curtail, speak to people respectfully, and be very, very consistent.

DJ Subway’s haul, literally and figuratively — his amp and his tips — for the night. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

If foot patrols are visible every evening from 7 p.m. to midnight and they are talking to the people in the parks rather than to each other in a corner, we will see a reduction of disagreeable activities in the park. A tactic of person-to-person communication and the visibility of consistent enforcement over a period of time will be far more effective than signage, curfews and riot gear.

2 Comments

  1. Steven Hill Steven Hill June 15, 2021

    The Park Rangers don’t enforce park rules during the day. Why would they be effective under more difficult circumstances?

  2. Obiter Dicta Obiter Dicta June 16, 2021

    With all due respect to Mr. Crespo, his proposals read like they were ghost-written by Maya Wiley and convey the most naive and puerile conception of what is needed to promote law and order, crowd control and personal safety.

    I can see it now. PEP or Police Officers mingle with the increasingly inebriated and raucous crowd as the sky darkens and the roars of the crowd become uglier and uglier. As they approach some of the more hostile revelers, they politely seek to open a cordial dialogue, over the din of ear-piercing drumming, to discuss the merits of putting aside their 1,000-megawatt amplifiers.

    Rules are made and are needed to protect everyone’s liberties, and the certainty that those rules will be enforced deters the violation of those rules.

    Traffic lights are not discretionary. They are commands that protect motorists and pedestrians alike.

    With regard to Washington Square Park, it is not the establishment of rules that it is the issue. It is the fairness and reasonableness of those rules that are at issue. They must strike a fair and just balance between the interests of those who wish to visit the park and those who live around it, with regard to their safety, comfort and enjoyment. And if a proposed rule imposes a burden, hardship or even an inconvenience on another stakeholder, then an effort should be made to explore alternative rules that would accomplish the same purpose but with this less hardship to others. All stakeholders should have the right to weigh in on how those interests should be balanced.

    But once there is an agreement on the rules, clear notice of it must be provided to all. Thereafter, the certainty of enforcement must be demonstrated and conveyed, which in itself will impose a deterrent effect, which translates into self-enforcement and the reduction of funds and resources needed by law enforcement.

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