Sunday, October 26, 2008

Park Rangers in Seattle

Beefing up the public safety in the parks in Seattle appears to be having the desired impact—though one would hope they will someday attain peace office status with the ability to carry guns—and it is a strategy desperately needed here, where the lower end of the Parkway has been overrun by the same issues plaguing Seattle parks.

An excerpt from the article in the Seattle Times.

“When a man asked Corby Christensen what kind of wildlife lives in Seattle's downtown parks, the city park ranger shrugged.

"If you want to see some wildlife, you should go to Occidental Park after 8 p.m.," Christensen joked.

“Most people who approach the newly hired rangers aren't quite sure what they do. The focus is safety, not wildlife, Christensen points out. They function as part security guards, part social workers. It's a job description the city itself is still trying to figure out, and in the meantime, the seven inaugural rangers are finding the gaps that need filling on their own.

“The city hired the rangers in April as part of a plan to curb crime in downtown-area parks. The parks have long been notorious for drinking, drug dealing, prostitution and violence, as well as campgrounds for homeless people. The idea behind hiring the rangers was to reduce crime, not by chasing out unwanted visitors but rather by attracting the general public.

"There are parks that have been taken over by certain populations," said Ranger Mo Hecht. "Our job is to bring everybody back in."

“The rangers greet tourists, offer help to transients and call in police to deal with troublemakers. They can't carry guns or write tickets, but they can ask people to leave the parks and can ban people for various amounts of time.

“The $462,000 ranger program was recommended by a 2005 mayor-commissioned task force, the latest in a years-long string of tactics the city has used to try to clean up the downtown parks, all but abandoned by ordinary citizens and overrun by crime. Last year, for example, police received more than 1,300 calls and made 133 drug arrests in Victor Steinbrueck Park, next to Pike Place Market, the city's biggest tourist draw.”