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New York City Struggles to Keep Drugs out of Parks

Andy Berg

New York City is struggling to keep its parks safe and free of drugs, according to a report this week from the New York Post.

According to the Post, city residents say drug use at parks has surged and police are doing less to stop it.

“Drugs are a huge problem in the park recently,” resident Mary McGraw of Washington Square Park in the Village told the Post, where she takes daily strolls with her 11-year-old son. “In my 17 years in New York City I’ve never seen it the way it is now, and some of those dudes are scary."

Residents of Washington Place have now formed the “Save Our Street” block association in September in response to the drug surge.

“It’s just a continuous loop of people sitting on those steps and smoking crack,” said Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of the nearby Strand Book Store and co-organizer of “Save Our Street.”

The Post reports that cops made 56 drug-related arrests in the park this year through Oct. 6, an average of 1.4 per week, according to the NYPD. Arrests averaged 1.2 per week in 2018 (an annual total of 66) and 1.5 per week (77 for the year) in 2017 — the last full year before Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered Finest to stop cuffing pot-smokers. 

Found drugs and paraphernalia can be dangerous. In Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, Carin Gilfry said her 2-year-old daughter found tiny, brightly colored vial caps that appeared to be coated in drug residue.

“Luckily, I grabbed them from her before she could put them in her mouth,” Gilfry recalled. “You can overdose on a few grains of fentanyl. If that was fentanyl, my kid could be dead.”

The NYPD “adjusts deployments regularly [in the parks] based on real time crime and conditions,” Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell told the Post, adding that the department’s “Neighborhood Policing philosophy has allowed our police officers to strengthen the bonds with the communities we serve and by working together, the NYPD is able to gather information, solve crimes and keep people safe.”

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