An enduring myth in the debate about car-free parks is that motorists make Prospect Park and Central Park safer. Proponents of allowing driving in the park often assert that the presence of motorists somehow deters crime.
Police crime figures for Prospect Park do not support this claim. According to police reports from 1999 (the most recent available to T.A.), there were 31 violent crimes in Prospect Park. Fifteen of these crimes occurred during hours when driving was allowed in the park, and 16 during car-free hours. However, in 1999, there were 3,965 hours when driving was allowed in the park, and 4,795 car-free hours. So, factoring in the total hours, there was one crime for every 264.33 hours that driving was allowed in the park and one crime for every 299.69 hours that driving was not allowed in the park. This means that in 1999 it was statistically a little safer to be in the park during car-free hours. Given that the park is much more heavily used during car-free hours, which include weekends, the number of crimes committed proportional to the number of people in the park is even lower during car-free hours. The fact is, driving does not make Prospect Park safer, and may make it more dangerous by discouraging walking, running, skating and cycling in the park.
T.A. will continue to examine park crime data as it becomes available.
1999 Prospect Park Violent
Total Driving Hours: 3,965
Driving Hours/Crime: 264.33