Three violent assaults at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill this month have prompted the city to add two full-time park rangers, who will patrol there and at Occidental Square in Pioneer Square.
Additionally, Seattle police will step up summer-emphasis patrols to ensure public safety as warm weather and long days draw more people to the city’s parks.
“The rangers are a force multiplier,” said Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel. “They can be boots on the ground in the park; they can spend more time than we can, but they also have direct contact with the police.”
Mayor Mike McGinn and Pugel announced the addition of the rangers Thursday morning at a City Hall news conference. The city expects to spend $180,000 the first year and $150,000 in subsequent years. The money will come from 2013 budget savings in the Parks Department.
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The rangers are not law-enforcement officers and are not armed. But they are trained in crisis intervention, problem solving, customer service, parks regulations and social-services referrals, said Corby Christensen, head of security for Seattle Parks.
The new rangers will be hired, trained and on duty by the end of June. The Parks Department will work with the police to determine the best scheduling to deter crime, he said.
“We appreciate the city listening to our concerns,” said Michael Wells, president of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, which has its office directly across from Cal Anderson Park. He called the three assaults in early May very disturbing and said it raised fears that crime would only get worse over the summer.
On May 6, a woman reported an attempted sexual assault at the park by a man who threatened her with a knife. She escaped and reported the incident at the nearby East Precinct police station. Police did not find the suspect, but they did arrest a man in the park armed with a sword, a meat cleaver and a pellet gun.
On May 12, a young man was stabbed several times in the park after confronting another man over his unleashed dog. Four days later, another young man was stabbed in an unrelated incident.
Wells said that having full-time rangers on duty “will make a huge difference in how people perceive the park.”
Currently the city has four full-time rangers and one part-time ranger. They concentrate on 10 downtown parks, including Victor Steinbrueck Park at the Pike Place Market, Freeway Park and Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown/International District, but they are responsible for more than a dozen more in the central part of the city.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes