INDIANAPOLIS - There is a growing concern about the dwindling numbers of park rangers available to adequately patrol the city’s parks.
Indianapolis has one of the largest park systems in the country. Because the parks mirror life in the neighborhoods that surround them, leaders worry there will be crime without a big law enforcement presence to deal with it.
The Indy Parks and Recreation system attracts more than six million visitors a year, but it lacks a visible law enforcement presence. The city hasn't hired a single park ranger in at least a decade.
Ten years ago, the park ranger staff had 40 full-time and reserve officers. Today, staffing levels have fallen to 14 full-time park rangers and just four reserves.
"I do think at this point they may be stretched a little thin to cover everywhere. And we would have to look at using officers on some other details to ensure we have proper coverage," said Valerie Washington with the Department of Public Safety.
On Wednesday, there was no ranger coverage in Garfield Park, and none for the entire southeast side of Indianapolis. And city-wide there were only three rangers on duty to patrol more than 200 parks.
There is growing concern about staffing levels and keeping people safe.
"It's going to make monitoring those parks and addressing crime issues in the parks more difficult as we move through the summer months. So it's an issue the public safety committee and the administration need to look at," City-County Councillor Mary Moriarty Adams said.
To help short-handed park rangers, Indy parks has had to rely on a short-handed police department to close the law enforcement gaps.
"We've had a couple of incidents in previous summers. So, we've worked with IMPD to ensure these areas are addressed as fast as possible," Indy Parks Director John Williams said.
The Department of Public Safety and the City-County Council said they will begin taking a serious look at the future role of the park rangers and their staffing levels.