Police Commander Cites ‘Disturbing’ Rise in Crimes in Central Park by Young People

Photo by David Basulto.

By Dipshikha Ghosh

An increase in thefts and robberies led to a 33% jump in overall major crimes in Central Park last year, and many of those crimes appear to have been committed by young people, according to Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi, commanding officer of the Central Park Precinct. Police recorded 21 robberies and 37 grand larcenies in Central Park in 2019, up from 15 and 28 in 2018.

The northern section of the park, from 86th to 110th, had a disproportionate share of crime reports last year, Yaguchi said at a community council meeting held on Wednesday night at the precinct inside the park at 86th Street. Police believe five robberies were committed in that section of the park by groups of teenagers, he said. Yaguchi described the trend as “disturbing” and assured the community that police have increased patrols to cope with the rising crime rates. He said he’s been urged by police headquarters to focus on rehabilitation, getting parents of young people accused of crimes involved to keep it from happening again. The precinct has also increased its presence towards the lower end of Central Park, so that people committing crimes do not look at the park as an easy escape.

Other commanders in nearby precincts have also pointed to a rise in crimes committed by young people. Police believe teenagers were involved in the murder of Tessa Majors, the Barnard student killed in Morningside Park late last year. A 13-year-old has been arrested in connection with the crime, though initial reports described three possible assailants.

Yaguchi said that 80% of crimes at the park happen in small dark paths and advised pedestrians to stick to the well-lit big roads at night.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 39 comments | permalink
    1. Ben David says:

      Thank you for the serious coverage of this growing issue , WS Rag, which our mayor prefers to ignore.
      The reality is that most “young people” are no longer arrested for violent crimes, and even if they are, they are quickly released with no bail at all — especially thanks to bail reform/elimination laws that about 98 percent of UWS residents voted for through their support of Cuomo, de Blasio, and straight down the Democratic ticket.
      And as soon as anyone IS arrested in a NYC park, such as in the murder of college student Tessa Majors in Morningside Park, our elected officials quickly remind everyone that we must not repeat the Central Park Five story and we must protect the perpetrators. We live in a city where victims are quickly forgotten, but criminals roam freely and are rewarded for repeating their crimes.

      • EricaC says:

        Ben David – I agree with your kudos to the police in taking this seriously. As to arresting young people – I would ask whether what happened to the Central Park Five concerns you and, if it does, how you would ensure it does not happen to another group of kids without sacrificing others’ safety. Serious question.

        • Ben David says:

          EricaC, Thank you for asking! Rest assured that I care VERY deeply about civil liberties and am well aware of the need to ensure that law enforcement does not abuse its power–that is always a danger and we must remain vigilant. My point is that the world, or more specifically NYC, has taken it WAY too far. The emphasis is now on protecting alleged criminals and convicted criminals, while the right of citizens to expect some degree of public safety has been compromised, especially because of the new extreme bail laws. Did you read about the NYC bank robber who keeps getting arrested, keeps getting released with no bail, and keeps robbing banks?! I am not making this up! Google: Gerod Woodberry
          And while we must treat youth who commit crimes differently than adults, we must also not tolerate setting them free simply because of their age.
          There are known suspects in the murder of Tessa Majors that walk the streets freely today and enjoy their lives because of the NYPD’s fear of being accused of racism.

        • UWSHebrew says:

          Do you care as much for victims of crime in our neighborhood as you do the criminals that commit them? Serious question.

        • Neal Hurwitz says:

          as far as the Central Park 5— did they not commit crimes that night? Thanks, Neal

        • Anthony says:

          What do the central park 5 have to do with this?

          that was decades ago. the police should do their job AND respect civil rights. they should arrest people against whom there is probable cause.

          the CP5 didn’t have eyewitnesses, and there wasn’t evidence other than their testimony.

          that is not always, or even usually, the case. In many cases the victim can definitively identify their attacker. indeed, nowadays, there is often video of attacks, as we can see from this website alone.

      • Parker says:

        “Young people are no longer arrested for violent crimes… ” That statement is false. The 13 year old accused of killing Tessa Majors was arrested. County by county statistics for juveniles arrested and detained are easily accessible: https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/jj-profiles.htm

        “… quickly released with no bail at all.” That’s false. Bail was only eliminated for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

        “…. support of Cuomo, de Blasio, and straight down the Democratic ticket.” That’s false. Cuomo just authorized an additional 500 MTA police officers, and de Blasio has come out against provisions in the new bail legislation.

        “… elected officials remind everyone that we must not repeat the Central Park Five…” This is true. Aside from the horrific human costs, NYC taxpayers pay handsomely for NYPD’s history of poor management, false arrests and excessive force. For the 2017/2018 fiscal year, NYPD paid out $230 million dollars to settle lawsuits, $140 million of which were for false arrests and excessive force violations.

        I don’t think any increase in crime is acceptable, but it’s important to keep this in perspective. Central Park has approximately 38 million visitors per year. Last year, there was an increase of 6 robberies and 9 grand larcenies year over year. Not good. But it’s also not a crime wave reminiscent of decades past.

        • J says:

          the ‘reform’ laws are ridiculous. Repeated offenders REPEATEDLY release without bail….’supervised release’….literally a joke

      • EBuzz says:

        Isn’t the problem with the bail reform law that it’s not being applied properly? Am I wrong – I thought it was supposed to be applied to people who were arrested for NON-VIOLENT crimes. I also think anyone who is arrested repeatedly should not be released.

        • JSL says:

          This issue with “non-violent” crime is that possession of a deadly weapon, of not used “yet” is a non-violent crime.one example of many crimes that fall into the bail free category…

        • MAD says:

          Here is a link to the extensive list of crimes that fall under the new bail reform law: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/12/31/all-crimes-new-york-bail-reform/ Some of these sound like violent offenses to me.

          • Ann says:

            I just read that whole list and I have no words. Her are just three to highlight –

            – Aggravated Assault on a child under 11 years-old
            – Possessing a sexual performance by a child
            – Endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person


            • MAD says:

              Yes, the scope of what is considered “non violent” is stunning, isn’t it? If people knew what is on that list, I would hope they would make their feelings known to their local politicians. This is not fear-mongering: On Long Island, a number of gang members were just released (Bloods, Crips, MS-13, and Latin Kings) thanks to the new bail reform act. What will protect their victims?

    2. dc says:

      When consequences of criminal behavior are few or none, this is where we find ourselves. Well done, current NYC administration.

    3. Joanne Nasuti says:

      Whatever happened to the Guardian Angels? Granted once we had Republican leadership in NYC they were no longer needed, but sounds like we need them now. I’d gladly volunteer. I just started studying kickboxing/martial arts and would love to put my new skills to work!

    4. Rob G. says:

      Well, it may have taken longer than expected, but the full fallout from the “progressives” winning the 2012 and 2016 elections has hit the ground. They turned their backs on our police force, weakened our laws, and are now coddling the criminals in our midst. The resulting decline our quality of life has creates a more dangerous environment for everyone.

    5. Stephen Manheimer says:

      Perhaps the Conservancy’ should install cameras and warnings for deterrence.
      Reasonable fear of the law must be instilled in our youth.

    6. @davidaron60 says:

      These are kids! Bored and disenfranchised teenagers are a recipe for disaster. We should ensure that our tax dollars go to more programs, like the ones at Goddard Riverside that have been working since at least the early 1970s. There are simply not enough of these for those that would like to attend them. It’s our responsibility to our underserved youth and it shouldn’t just be left to the criminal justice system to sort out, as others suggest.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        “Bored and disenfranchised”. Good old talking points that fool nobody today, this is 2020 not 1990.

      • Al says:

        Yup, kids. Armed and dangerous kids.

      • Rob G. says:

        Well, until these “bored and disenfranchised kids” are off our streets, we “others” will still call for the criminal justice system sort it out. But thanks anyway.

      • Bernie Getts says:

        Why does this sound like extortion?

        “NIce neighborhood you got there. Shame if some bored disenfranchised 14-year old killed somebody in it.”

      • sg says:

        Not my responsibility…I think that the 4.25% I pay in income taxes on top of high NYS taxes is more than enough! This city has to stop blaming victims and everyone else…it’s parents and the communities responsibility.

    7. michael says:

      Thank you WSR for covering this. However, I think many readers are missing the forest for the trees. There are a number of issues at play that are getting muddled.

      1) “Signal detection”: There are two types of errors that can be made by the police. The worst type of error in this case, I think we can all agree, is Type 1 – which means that an innocent person is sent to jail. The lesser evil is a type 2 error – which means that a guilty person goes free. Our court system was set up to lean away from the possibility of a type 1 error. It is far more desirable for a guilty person to go free than an innocent person be sent to jail.

      2)Politics: Traditionally, the democratic party uses examples of type 1 errors to promote their agenda (Central Park Five). The Republican party, on the other hand, uses Type 2 error examples to demonstrate how you may not be safe and may need to self-protect (read, own a gun). Notably, those that identify as independent appear to prefer more of a balance between Type 1 and Type 2 error possibilities.

      3) Parents and society: The system falls apart when the transmission of reciprocal altruism, which begins with our leadership, faulters.

      Reciprocal altruism behaviors are sustained within a community through a framework of principles and ethics that are set forth by our leaders. Reciprocal altruism is reinforced not only when a community has expected norms and rules for behavior, but more so when it punishes those who deviate from these norms. Parents support this when they teach their children the ethics of individual responsibility.

      4) Enforcement: The police are just following rules. They are the instrument of the people’s will. They put their life on the line for a cause – our cause. We need to support their efforts. They are currently in a very difficult position.

    8. Jeremy says:

      Let’s not get carried away here. Less than one robbery every two weeks across the entire park is still a very low rate. Statistically you’ll be fine if you use common sense.

    9. DER says:

      I definitely think Di Blasio has been a disaster for NYC. Biggest mistake I mad was to vote for him in the first election – I had not read up on him very much and it has been a big regret of mine. I now call Central Park ….Central Pot! It’s a disgrace. I told the Central Park police this and they told me they aren’t allowed to really say anything anymore. That is messed up. Also, several attacks against Jewish people and those nutjobs were released bc they hadn’t actually hit or terrorized their victims sufficiently so they were released. Sorry, but that’s nuts. Remember the professor killed at the ATM on 96th Street – they worked on a deal to reduce the killers sentence to 10 years – because, well, he had learning disabilities. Yeah, that’s sound rational to me. NOT! Seriously, if you aren’t tough on crime you basically encourage criminal behavior. What the hell is wrong with our government officials – neurons are firing!!!!

      • ST says:

        Thank you for the apology. At least you voted. The volume of New Yorkers who fail to educate themselves about candidates or even to vote at all is a sin. Totally disrespecting a right that so few around the world have.

      • MarinaDZ says:

        Thank you for your reply. It gives hope to see people caring and also admitting their mistake. This is exactly what the police is trying to explain «if you aren’t tough on crime you basically encourage criminal behavior » as simple is that! And this is just the beginning, Please wake up NYC

    10. Neal Hurwitz says:

      Police believe teenagers were involved in the murder of Tessa Majors, the Barnard student killed in Morningside Park late last year. A 13-year-old has been arrested in connection with the crime, though initial reports described three possible assailants.
      The 13 year old arrested??? confessed??? Named the other two, one of whom interviewed and let go??? Wtf is going on??? Call the Detective Squad at 26th Pct— this is all weird… and annoying: 212-678-1311. Thanks, Neal H. Hurwitz, former head, W 115th St Block Assn

    11. Walk Faster says:

      Appreciate the reporting. Have noticed increased police presence in the park ~5PM.

      Is a map available showing where the robberies and larcenies occurred? Any more detailed information about assailants?

      Also, is there any information regarding victim profiles, and what types of things were stolen? Were lone individuals more likely to be targeted? Older v. younger? Female v. male? Were smartphones targeted? Were victims distracted?

      I have never felt threatened personally, but I have noticed a lot of questionable activity occurring in the North Wood earlier in the year– the kinds of things that suggest people aren’t at all concerned about encountering police officers in that area of the park. Foot patrols at different times of day might be an ounce of prevention.

    12. Michael M Falk says:

      The so called Central Park Five were in the Park and vicinity beating and robbing people.
      The cops made the mistake of tying in the Jogger with them and what they actually did got washed away. Also, if the new bail system is working then please explain the guy who broke some young woman’s teeth released immediately (in spite of a not so nice past) and then went out and did something violent again. Where in the new bail law is the provision for the mentally disturbed?

    13. ST says:

      Think attacking/mugging white people is a gang initiation rite. Should be treated as a hate crime, but it won’t be.

    14. tom burnett says:

      The new State ‘bail’ laws are a danger to public safety. Concerned citizens need to find out who represents them in Albany and make their thoughts known. The website http://www.whorepresentsmenyc is very helpful. Just type in your address and your elected officials are displayed. We need to speak up–public safety should be our collective concern.

      Tom Burnett, President of the 24 Precinct Community Council

    15. Lisa says:

      It’s not just crime in the park. Some 15 “bored kids” followed and jumped an acquaintance’s husband near LaGuardia High School over the holidays, beating him to a pulp and breaking his nose, so they could steal a small gift he was taking to a friend. This has to stop. Anyone who is intellectually honest sees that our city and our neighborhood are demonstrably less safe and going downhill quickly.

    16. The OG from the OC says:

      Just last week I tried to report obvious illegal drug use & activity a few yards away to a CP NYPD officer and his response was a shrug and “its complicated”.

    17. WillyB says:

      How about we restore arts, sports, and after school programming so young kids are occupied, engaged and given skills to create a positive future. In these days of ever increasing income equality, how can disadvantaged kids even have an inkling of hope?

    18. Laura Beth Gilman says:

      My 16 year old son was mugged this past Saturday at noon on West 76th and Riverside by 3-5 youths. There is video footage of at least one of the assailants. It was reported and is being investigated by the 20th precinct.