Is Central Park safe at night?
New York City might be the city that never sleeps, but most of the places in it sure need their rest. Even Central Park has its working hours and closes precisely at 1 AM up until 6 AM. These five hours are the much needed time for the employees of the Conservancy to prepare it for the next day. Do we recommend visiting it during its closing? The short answer is “No”. We will share our arguments below.
Central Park’s sheer size
There is (probably) no need to remind you, but Central Park is huge, and this means 840 acres of darkness and emptiness. This might sound intriguing for the more adventurous spirit but just try and imagine it. All the lawns, paths and woods take a completely different shape. As funny as it may sound, it is quite easy to get lost.
Crime and safety issues
If you probably smiled at the idea of getting lost in the dark, then this is a by far more serious issue.
Back in the day there was a running joke amongst Manhattan natives that going at Central Park at night is like parking your car in certain areas of the Bronx. Jokes aside, you can see a lot of people hanging around Central Park after sunset. Most of them are couples seeking time alone. Others are just walking their dogs, or are just crossing the park to get from the one side of Manhattan to the other.
Back in the mid 20th century, Central Park gained notorious fame as being a dangerous place. The crime was increasing since the early ’40s. Some considered the claims that the park is unsafe to be exaggerated because of several high-profile murders in the late 20th century (most notably the Central Park Five) and the worldwide fame of the park.
The Central Park jogger case is the most infamous and controversial act of crime that has taken place inside the park. On April 19, 1989, a young woman named Trisha Meili was assaulted and raped. The convicts were five young men of African and Hispanic descent, who were convicted without any evidence. Four of them, still juvenile at this time, served between 6 or 7 years, and the 16-years old was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The charges against them were withdrawn in 2002 when a convicted murderer confessed of assaulting and raping Ms. Meili, and the DNA matched the one that has been found on the scene.
Central Park isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was before. There is a huge decline in muggings, rapes, and grand lancer since the early to mid-’90s. There was a total of 69 crimes that happened in Central Park, and 52 in 2018. The last suspected murder was in august 2019 when a presumably homeless man was found near Lasker Pool. The previous homicide was back in 2002. This decline is due to the installment of a late-night shift by the Conservancy, along with surveillance cameras. Keep in mind, however, that most of the crimes that do happen in Central Park happen at night.
Manhattan offers a lot of things to do in the evening. There are a lot of restaurants, bars, cinemas, and don’t forget all the evening performances on Broadway. Yes, Central Park might be gorgeous at night, but it can match neither its daytime charm nor the lights of Theater District at night.