Last month folks (including us) started to wonder what was going on with all the violence and addicts who seemed to have settled into Union Square. The cops, never happy to be shamed in the papers, quickly started paying attention—going so far as setting up a mobile command center on Union Square East near "methadone alley." Since then the cops have gone on an arresting and ticketing blitz. "The park was a mess," an NYPD officer explained to A Walk in the Park. "We're going to be here a while."
Arrests in Union Square, according to NYPD stats, are up 320 percent this year. Between January and June 5th police made 98 arrests, compared to 30 in the same period last year. That is more arrestes in one six-acre park than in all of the other city park's combined. Further, from January through June 9th police made 65 drug arrests (up from 24 in the same period last year) and issued 99 public drinking summons (up from 31). And the Parks Department's Park Enforcement Patrol issued an additonal 135 summons in the last two months alone: "71 in April including 35 for open container, and 64 summonses in May—39 for open container according to NYC Park Advocates."
How bad had things gotten in the park? "Crime has increased so much in the park that the local BID now pays for a detail of off duty NYPD officers during week and two on Friday's. They also pay for two dedicated Park Enforcement Officers in addition to their own security which patrol the park."
But the NYPD, and some park regulars, are hopefull that the current approach is already started to work. "I think it's more comfortable. I was wondering where are they, the regulars," a park visitor told the Post. "[The police] did a good job, I have to say that."