Morningside Park Could Get More Police Following Shootings

By Jeff Mays on July 14, 2011 5:20pm 

HARLEM — Morningside Park could get cameras, additional police and a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer following a June 30 shooting across from a playground at the park that has scared some area parents away.

Police from the 28th Precinct told members of Community Boards 9 and 10 Wednesday that the June 30 shooting was likely drug-related. An uninvolved bystander was hit by a stray bullet in the incident.

Parent Melissa Chu said she was playing with her daughter, Emma, near the swings at the 116th Street playground when someone across the street pulled a gun and started shooting. She grabbed her daughter, fled the park, and has not returned since.

The shooting has mobilized area parents who have demanded more police patrols. The shooting was the second near the park last month. On June 2, a 16-year-old boy was shot at the basketball courts on 118th Street.

That shooting was a dispute involving three rival teen "crews" over a girl, said police officials from the 26th precinct, who were also at the meeting with the community boards. Two suspects have been arrested and charged with the shooting.

The shooting victims in both incidents survived.

Parks department officials also said Morningside Park was going to receive a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer. That officer will be paid for by Columbia University, a Parks Dept. spokesman said.

Uptown residents have long complained that parks in the area receive less PEP officers than downtown parks. But they also feel one officer isn't enough, given the size of the park and the heavy use of its playground and basketball court.

Community groups have called for a larger response to the issue of gun violence, particularly among young people.

"We urge elected officials, law enforcement officers, community groups, business and religious leaders to work together to find holistic solutions for the violence, most crucially to support programs that engage and provide opportunity for our youth," the board of Harlem4Kids wrote in an open letter.

Friends of Morningside Park is looking into raising funds to install video cameras in the park,  said Brad Taylor, a board member and former president of Friends of Morningside Park. He added that he's optimistic about the future of the park.

"I'm glad people have raised these issues and that parents have been so organized," he said.

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