By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — An emerging robbery pattern on a stairway leading into Jackie Robinson Park has led the NYPD to post officers at park entrances.
Officers now patrol the steps at Edgecombe Avenue near West 149th Street and also at the West 145th Street entrance to the park, which is bordered by Bradhurst & Edgecombe avenues. The postings started at the beginning of the year, NYPD said.
A police official from the 30th Precinct said there had been several reports of stolen goods in the park over the past year.
"We had a lot of robberies in the area, things like kids from City College getting their iPods stolen," said the official. "We are doing this to prevent more robberies."
"We are not concerned anymore because we see police here all of the time and even most of the night," said the 41-year-old fire safety director. "The police presence gives us a sense of security."
The 12.7-acre park from West 145 to West 155 Streets between Bradhurst and Edgecombe avenues was once one of the worst parks for drug activity in the city. Some area residents refused to walk through the park even during daylight hours.
However, the park has experienced a renaissance in recent years. The band shell received a $2 million renovation that was completed in 2009 and five new co-op developments, a Pathmark, Starbucks and New York Sports Club have opened in the 145th street area in the past several years.
Geoffrey Croft, president, NYC Park Advocates, said there simply aren't enough parks enforcement officer in Upper Manhattan compared to parks downtown such as the High Line.
"Anytime you are out in the public, including parks, you should always be aware of your surroundings. But if bad guys want to do things to you we need that enforcement to feel safe," Croft said.
Craig Joseph, 47, a fundraiser, said he used the steps to cross the park to visit clients twice a week. Although he was new to the area, he said he has heard about the park's past.
"I was always wondering why the police were posted here," Joseph said when told about the robbery pattern. "It doesn't surprise me, because this is New York and you have to be cautious as a whole."
Liz Burnett, 53, a former executive assistant at Bear Stearns, said she remembered the days when drug addicts and muggers controlled the park.
The area is much better now, but Burnett, who said her black Rottweiller Bella served as a form of protection, noticed that some people didn't use as much caution as they should in the park.
"Some people new to the area are not aware of their surroundings. They walk through the park late at night with their iPods on or early in the morning with really short shorts on, jogging by themselves," said Burnett.
"This is my protection right here," she said as she pointed to Bella. "And I still use common sense because I don't want to be a statistic."