Central Park. Photo © JF

Forty-two new officers currently in training to join PEP ranks this Spring

NYC Parks this year celebrates forty years of the Parks Enforcement Patrol, a team of dedicated officers who preserve and protect parks and public facilities.

In the late 1970’s, New York City was in the grip of a crime wave coupled with diminishing fiscal resources and deteriorating infrastructure. In response to the increased concerns about safety and to deter mischief in public parks, former NYC Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis decided to add a uniformed presence, the Urban Park Rangers. The Rangers were initially intended to provide public information and administer first aid. However, over time it became clear that the role of the Rangers needed to be expanded to manage conditions and situations that required a more focused law enforcement approach. To address this need, the Rangers spawned two additional divisions: Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) and Central Communications. These law enforcement officers would focus primarily on quality-of-life issues in and around city parks and on ensuring effective agency and interagency communications. Today, 40 years later, PEP remains dedicated to their mission of educating parkgoers, enforcing park rules, protecting natural resources, and keeping New Yorkers safe.

“New York City would not be what it is without our parks and public green spaces — they are places of reflection, rejuvenation, and community,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “Parks Enforcement Patrol officers play a critical role in keeping us safe, protecting our natural resources, and allowing everyone to enjoy our parks. I’m grateful to every city worker who represents PEP, and join all New Yorkers celebrating their 40th anniversary.”

“Parks Enforcement Patrol is integral to the operation of our parks as they work tirelessly to aid and assist parkgoers, keep them safe, and promote coexistence. The work that they do has touched the lives of thousands of New Yorkers ranging from those needing directions to those needing critical care,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “What makes PEP special is that their presence is not merely a deterrent, but a reminder that we have dedicated and brave enforcement officers in our parks who educate, enforce, and show genuine care.”

“Our PEP officers proudly protect and represent our agency and our City each and every day. Through life saving measures like administering naloxone for drug overdoses to handing out face masks during the height of the pandemic, our officers do it all. I’m proud to lead this division and I salute everyone who represents PEP including those in the field, in Central Communications, and those in Emergency Management. Thank you for all that you have contributed over the past 40 years,” said NYC Parks Assistant Commissioner of Urban Park Service Edwin Rodriguez.

“It has been an absolute honor to serve and grow with Parks Enforcement Patrol over the past 40 years. Throughout my time serving, I’ve had the pleasure of working among amazing, hard working people in PEP who genuinely care about helping others,” said PEP Captain Juan Bayron. “I look forward to continuing to build a legacy of teamwork and committed service for all New Yorkers.”

Now, in its 40th year, PEP is continuing to grow and add new officers. Currently, there are two classes slated for graduation this year; 7 new officers will join the field on April 8 and another 35 will complete the training academy and begin field work on June 10. PEP officers undergo approximately three months of training at the Urban Park Service Academyon Randall’s Island to prepare them for the many responsibilities of the job. Training encompasses customer service, tactical training, instruction in the use of all equipment, park rules and regulations, summons and report writing, arrest, court appearance procedures, and much more.

Integral to their work, PEP officers also partner with the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to help people who are found using drugs in parks and work with local overdose prevention centers. PEP officers are equipped with naloxone and since being trained on the use of NARCAN over three years ago, they have successfully reversed 20 overdoses.

In addition to educating and enforcing park rules, PEP officers work closely with the Department of Homeless Services and their outreach providers to offer compassionate assistance to homeless individuals in our parks. Their outreach includes conducting Homeless code blue checks during winter weather events. Over the years, officers have successfully aided thousands of parkgoers including persuading individuals to accept services or medical assistance around the city.

PEP boasts its own mounted unit; a specialized unit of equestrian officers trained in horse care, and stable management in addition to their regular PEP officer training.PEP has also expanded to include other specialty units including the honor guard, bicycle unit, and Task Force Unit.