The agency in charge of policing Prospect Park hasn’t written a single summons for litter in the last 20 months — but its officers have written up scores of dog owners for off-leash pets.
In 2009 and so far this year, during a barrage of coverage of filth in Prospect Park by local media outlets, Park Enforcement Patrol officers wrote zero tickets for litter — but issued 147 tickets for dogs that were not on a leash, according to documents obtained by this newspaper.
The NYPD, which also patrols the park, issued only four summonses for litter in the same timeframe — while issuing 50 summonses for dog-related offenses.
“It’s so crazy! I’m floored, really!” said Deanna Zandt, who regularly visits the park with her dog. “Numbers like this show they’re doing nothing to prevent the litter — prevention is key!”
There are typically two to four Park Enforcement Officers stationed in Prospect Park throughout the week, along with six of the so-called PEP officers who patrol the entire borough.
Many park-goers were outraged by the blatant lack of clean-up enforcement, saying it verified what they had been saying for years: that no one is stopping people from disrespecting the park and its tidy users.
Park officials have ramped up public awareness campaigns this year, including an anti-charcoal program, but Zandt and others said that such efforts were ultimately not the most-effective measure.
“There is a difference between me — a volunteer with my shirt on saying, ‘Please don’t litter’ — and a cop or Parks patrol officer saying, ‘You’re in trouble. I just saw you leave a pile of trash and barbecue coals by a tree,’ ” said Zandt. “Instead, they’re spending time on unleashed dogs!”
The stunning statistics left members of FIDO — a dog advocacy group — feeling as agitated as a pooch after he’s eaten a chicken bone.
“They target dog owners and they leave the barbecuers and picnickers — they don’t bother with them!” said FIDO President Tony Chiappelloni, adding, “I’m not saying the two are connected, but this is nothing new.”
Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson said that the biggest problem in hitting litterers where it hurts is that officers actually have to witness the littering.
“In order to issue summonses, a PEP officer must have to actually see a person leaving the litter behind,” Abramson said. The same officers, of course, have had no problem seeing a dog off a leash, however.
A spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance added that his group has stepped up its post-mess efforts.
“We have people who hand out trash bags at permitted events,” said the spokesman, Eugene Patron. “We’re certainly trying to raise awareness through our BBQ campaign — but there is obviously an enforcement component as well.”
But that lack of enforcement had left Zandt, who runs a photo blog of uncollected trash in the park, having to keep a her rat terrier on the leash, even during off-leash hours.
“The biggest tragedy is I can’t let my dog off-leash on Sunday through Wednesday because the park is too gross,” said Zandt. “Chicken bones can kill my dog and people leave them everywhere.
“I’m prevented from using a public space as its intended because of other people’s irresponsibility and the park’s unwillingness to really address the issue,” she said.
Filth in Prospect Park has been a hot-button issue for at least the last two summers. It all began when MIH Ventures, an event planning company, left the park looking like the city dump after an unpermitted party last year.
Then last winter, the park was struck by a wave of bizarre happenings that included the illegal dumping of animal entrails in the lake.
As this summer went into full swing, parkgoers were disgusted to find their meadows riddled with trash, despite the park’s ramped up outreach efforts.
A television station also shined a spotlight on the trash in the park, as a reporter strapped on waders and removed a tire in waist-deep muck on his own in a Peabody-worthy segment.