Hartzog – Law Enforcement

Shifting to another topic—something we didn’t get to before, is the subject of crime in the parks. We talked about the new recreation areas and urban parks that came into the system during your tenure. With that came the Park Service’s need to increasingly deal with urban-type crime. Even in some of large scenic parks, because of the large number of people who are visiting, there were more episodes of crime. I would like to get a sense of how you grappled with this. You were able to translate those problems into increased funding for law enforcement and changes in the Park Police.

When I was out there [at Yosemite National Park] on a trip incognito, I asked one young man, “Why are you here?” He just spontaneously said, “Because they ran us out of Haight Asbury.” People in San Francisco got on the police, and every time they [hippies] popped out the door with one of the cigarettes in their mouths, they went to jail. So they just looked around and debated where they could go and have the same good time, and they decided they would go to Yosemite Valley. That’s where they went. That was the most obvious manifestation of the urban scene moving into the parks.

But we had it all over town. We had it here in the District [of Columbia], all kinds of obscene activities in Lafayette Park right across from the White House. The Park Police did a marvelous job in handling those instances and keeping them out of the press. But where they [incidents] usually broke out was when they [lawbreakers] went to the rural parks with the urban problems, like in the Great Smokies and along the Blue Ridge Parkway and its connection to Cherokee, [North Carolina], in the [Cherokee] Indian community over there. Prior to that, the biggest problem you had there was poaching black bear. The Indians were going up on Highway 441 in the park and shooting the bears.

In fact, we had one lady come into the office while I was there as assistant superintendent. She was just in panic. She could hardly talk. She was short of breath. She was just petrified, because here she was feeding the bear and the Indian walked up and shot the bear right out of her hand, threw it in the back of the trunk and away they go down the mountain to Cherokee. Well, it just absolutely floored her that anything like that could happen.

But, you see, my view of the urban crime, we were trying to handle it on an ad hoc basis. We didn’t try a general approach to it until after the episode in Yosemite. And that’s when I decided that instead of trying to use a ranger force which had been trained to protect people and to manage resources and not to deal with crime that we were going to use the U.S. Park Police. So I detailed the Park Police to a number of areas, only two of which they still remain, and that’s Golden Gate in California and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, maybe at Gateway [National Recreation Area] in New York, too. I had them in a number of different parks, because I felt that it’s a special skill which we put the police through…

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