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Precinct Commander Voices Support for Forest Park Mounted Unit

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 11, 2013 4:47pm
 Community Board 9 advocates for permanent law enforcement presence in the park.
Efforts to Bring Mounted Police Unit to Forest Park
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QUEENS — The commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct said he is in favor of bringing a mounted unit to Forest Park, which has seen a string of terrifying sexual attacks on joggers and other parkgoers over the past two years.

In voicing his support, Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner joins a chorus of activists and residents who favor the move.

“I’m in total support of the mounted unit," Sautner said Tuesday at a meeting of Community Board 9

At one point, there was a mounted unit based within the 102nd precinct, but it was removed more than a decade ago.

Following an attack in March, the NYPD permanently stationed two officers in the 550-acre park during the daytime.

After an August attack, in which a 69-year old jogger was raped, police beefed up the number of patrols in the park. They also placed a 24/7 mobile command post at the intersection of Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue.

Sautner said the need for additional patrols “is being reviewed on a week-to-week basis.” 

He also said that at this point — due to the limited number of officers within his precinct — there are no plans to add more cops to that unit. There are also no plans to assign the unit to patrol the park at night, he said.

The suspect in the two attacks this year — in which a stun gun was used  was recently linked to a string of four other assaults in the park over the past couple of years, including an attack on a 13-year-old girl in 2011.

The community board would like to see either a dedicated police precinct or mounted police unit in the park. The idea has been under consideration for a while, but picked up speed after the spate of violent incidents. 

The idea also has the support of a number of local pols.

In April, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who jogs in the park, wrote a letter to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly asking him to restore the unit to the area “with the option of it being stationed in Forest Park.”

Assemblyman Michael Miller and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo have also said they are in favor. 

Miller said he discussed the idea with the Parks Department but its representatives were concerned about maintenance for the stables once they are built, Miller said.

Both were also prepared to allocate $250,000, possibly for cameras, to improve the park's safety. 

But Addabbo favored mounted patrols.

"Cameras are good, but there are fixed locations where these cameras can be," he said. "A physical presence — whether it be a mounted police or a foot patrol — can cover larger areas."

The Parks Department did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.