What To Do When You Encounter Unaccompanied and Suspicious Adults in Playgrounds

Over the years the issue of unaccompanied adults at playgrounds has come up quite a few times. Here are some guidelines...



--If you see someone passed out, or drunk, you should call 911, particularly if you feel that person could be a danger to park visitors. 

For the record, NYC Parks Rules indicate that playgrounds are considered “Exclusive Areas” and have the following rules (which should be posted) on scene:  “Adults allowed in playground areas only when accompanied by a child under the age of twelve (12).”

--If you see someone unaccompanied you can call Parks Enforcement at 646-613-1200, or find Parks staff to assist you. If the issue is persistent, calling 311 creates a record that is forwarded to Parks so that they are aware that there is an ongoing problem. It is perfectly okay to ask them if they DO have a child at the playground and ask them to leave if they do not, citing parks rules.

--If you want to make a report the number for the 78th Precinct is 718-636-6411. The Community Affairs number is 718-636-6410 and you can speak to Brian Laffey or Jerry Galente.

-- For general guidelines about these kinds of things "Protecting The Gift," is great. The author, Gavin deBecker,  debunks much pop culture mythology (“some stranger is going to come out of nowhere and steal your kid”) while giving parents usable tools to assess and protect against dangers our kids could face. It helps you figure out how we can prepare kids to be out in the public and how much “hovering” is really necessary. It was published in 2000 but it’s as relevant today as 14 years ago. You can get it for about $6 on Amazon. His other book, “The Gift of Fear” should be read by every kid (and adult) 15 and over. We've got to trust our gut feelings, speak up when something doesn't seem right and teach our kids to do the same. Free Range Kids is by Lenore Skenazy is also a great one.

-- We had a situation discussed in 2012 on PSP in which police arrested a man taking unauthorized photos of children at Harmony Playground (discussion HERE). It happened because a mom noticed him, gave him the stare down while taking photos (he promptly left) then called 9-11 and provided a description. They brought the man down to the station for violating playground rules, interviewed him and did a background check to determine if he had a prior record (he did not) or was on the known sex offender list (he was not). Since adults who are not accompanied by a minor can't be in the playground Captain Ameri said that calling 911 in this case is the right thing to do. (NOTE: It is not illegal to take photos in a public place; no not even of children).

--With folks like John Walsh (“Americas Most Wanted”) capitalizing on our fears, parents typically believe that non-parental child abduction occurs far more often than it actually does, so keep in mind the statistics—less than 1% of the ~100 yearly "stereotypical kidnapping" incidents happen in the Northeast region. http://bit.ly/1mJ85Rq

Nevertheless you can get that creepy feeling when there are folks unaccompanied in the playgrounds without any children present. Feel free to take action appropriate to the situation (9-11, the stare down, confrontation); you’re doing a service to everyone.

Keep ‘em safe (but not so close we smother them!),

Susan Fox
Park Slope Parents