Crime in Bryant Park
In the 1970’s, Bryant Park was considered a cesspool of crime, death and injury. During those times, almost every edition of the New York Times had a report on it about something bad happening at the park. According to park statistics, there were roughly 40-50 robbery cases, over 50 drug arrests for possession, and even one to two cases of rape a year.
Gambling was also a big problem in the park. Accusations of cheating, gloating and gambling while drunk has sparked many fights in the park leading to injuries. For one 34-year old from the Bronx, the game proved fatal as aggression turned into a deadly stabbing.
The subsequent renovations made by the Bryant Park Renovation Corporation heightened security measures around the park and increased visibility by taking down tall shrubs and trees. Since then, crime rates have gone down in Bryant Park and to this day, park commissioners still use the lessons learned in the past to ensure that it never happens again.
Crime in Bryant Park Today
So how is Bryant Park faring when it comes to crime rates? Pretty well, according to the report cards written by New Yorkers for Parks. It has consistently gotten high scores on report cards despite being located smack dab in the heart of midtown, an area with high crime rates.
Crime was an all-time low in the 2000s, although cases of theft and grand larceny started to increase in 2005, with the introduction of the Citi Pond skating rink. Park officials installed security cameras on site and started to offer lockers to customers of the skating rink. This solved the problem easily and things were okay in the park once more. According to the city council parks report, there were only two reported cases of grand larceny in the first quarter of 2016, and six cases in the second quarter.
This doesn’t meant that Bryant Park is totally crime-free. Because it is located in midtown, the opportunity for crime exists. And even with heightened security and cameras, some crimes in Bryant Park made headlines in the last few years.
In September 22, 2016, a man was slashed with a box cutter across the face by a stranger at the Bryant Park subway station. The two supposedly got into a heated argument on the train, which escalated into the suspect taking out a box cutter and slashing the victim across the face and chest. This is reminiscent of another slashing in June the previous year, when a Korean tourist was slashed with a machete by a homeless man. The homeless man had prior arrests connected to threatening others using a machete.
In September 16, 2016, a 14-year-old teen was arrested after trying to light a woman on fire while walking into the Bryant Park subway station. No one was hurt and the teen was charged with several hate crimes, including attempted assault, harassment and aggravated harassment. Police officials say this might be tied to the recent string of hate crimes plaguing midtown, which all use the same modus.
The lowest point perhaps for Bryant Park in the past decade is the shooting that took place by the Citi Pond in 2013. In November 9, 2013, 16-year-old Corey Dunton demanded that 20-year-old Javier Contreras hand over his $680 Marmot “Biggie” jacket. When Contreras refused, Dunton pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and shot Contreras, while a stray bullet shot another teen, 14-year-old Adonis Mera in the back.
While the crime itself is bad enough, it got worse for Bryant Park when Arislenis Martinez, mother of Adonis Mera, filed a lawsuit for $90 million in damages. According to Martinez, her son, who was paralyzed after being shot in the back with a stray bullet, would have been safe if there were more security measures in the park. She said that the mere fact that someone with a gun was able to enter the skating rink was proof that security was non-existent.
Not All Bad
All things considered, not all incidences are bad and somber; some are actually amusing after the fact. In June 28, 2016, the Bomb Squad stormed Bryant Park in response to a potential bomb threat.
Citizens evacuated the park after a suspicious black suitcase was found on the park grounds. The Bomb squad barricaded the area and was ready to commence bomb removal protocols when a homeless man showed up and claimed ownership of the suitcase. The suitcase in question was opened to reveal clothes inside.