State Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblyman Ron Kim discussed the “ParentPatrol” app on Thursday morning at Northern Playground in Jackson Heights.
The app, which Kim introduced last year, enables parents or caretakers to notify elected officials, law enforcement and other parents about any potentially dangerous situations or “shady individuals” at playgrounds.
Parents can use it to report drug-related activities, suspicious loitering or any quality-of-life violations. The app comes with photo and video capabilities.
“While serious crimes should be reported to 911, parents and caregivers can report suspicious behavior by simply using this application,” Peralta said. “This is just one more resource to make that happen.”
The Queens senator said that although crime is down citywide, according to 2015 statistics, crime in city parks was up 23 percent. He noted that Travers Park, a popular spot for youth in his district, was taken over by gangs last year.
“Clearly, this app can be a life-saving tool to increase safety in parks and playgrounds,” Peralta said. “This is a way for parents to talk to each other and protect each other from not showing up to certain parks that may be dangerous at a certain point in time.”
Since the app’s launch last year, Kim said ParentPatrol has had nearly 2,200 downloads and more than 200 incidents reported. Kim, who collaborated with a friend to develop the app and paid for it out of pocket, said he felt the need to do it after allegedly seeing two teens get sexually molested at his local park.
The lawmaker claimed that a law that prevents adults without kids from loitering at children’s playgrounds “never gets enforced.” He attributed the problem to a shortage of Parks officers.
“That’s why we’re seeing an increase of crime at playgrounds and public parks,” Kim said. “We launched this app to empower our parents and caregivers to take the parks back on their own.”
Last month, Kim and his partner upgraded the app after hearing feedback to make it more user-friendly. Now, parents using the app can receive notifications when other users report an incident.
They also added a map feature where parents can see all city parks and the complaints attached to each one.
“As a parent or caretaker, you can look at a map of parks around you to see where you can go that is appropriate for your children,” Kim said. “We want to make this self-sustainable and make it a peer-to-peer app, parents helping other parents.”
While most users so far are in Queens, particularly within Kim’s Flushing district, the lawmakers hoped more New York City residents can find it useful.
“When there’s an incident, you’re notifying a network of parents around you to help each other out,” Kim said. “This app serves as an amplifier of their voices.”