Washington D.C. — Attacks upon and threats against National Park Service rangers, special agents and other law enforcement officers who patrol the nation’s parks, preserves and monuments are rising dramatically, according to new figures released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The number of threats, harassment and violence towards National Park Service (NPS) law enforcement employees rose a startling 940 percent in 2001, according to agency incident reports obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. This represents a nine-fold increase from 10 incidents in 2000, to 104 in 2001.
These latest figures come on the heels of the Aug. 9 shooting death of NPS Ranger Kris Eggle, in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, as he was assisting U.S. Border Patrol officers track fugitives from Mexico. In a report released in June 2002 by the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (www.rangerfop.com), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was named “the most dangerous park for the second year in a row due to numerous incidents involving drug trafficking, inflow of illegal aliens, and a workforce that is understaffed to safely manage the problem.”
According to the NPS 2001 annual report, park rangers were assaulted 65 times, and park police were assaulted 39 times. Only some of these incidents were summarized in the NPS’ “Morning Report.” These accounts, which represent a fraction of total assaults, offer details about incidents in which NPS rangers and other law enforcement officers have been shot, run over and beaten.
Despite rising numbers of attacks, NPS —unlike other federal land management agencies — lacks any mechanism for tracking threats or acts of violence against any of the nearly 20,000 full-time permanent non-law enforcement NPS employees. According to an official in its Ranger Activities Division, NPS claims it lacks funds to track incidents at all of the national parks and that such a system may be several years off.
“The Park Service keeps better track of popcorn sales from its concessionaires than it does monitoring hazards to its own work force,” said Eric Wingerter, PEER’s National Field Director. “This most recent loss of a 28-year old Park Ranger underscores growing danger facing all Park Service employees this Labor Day.”
See the acts of violence against NPS employees
PEER will soon be releasing violence compilations for other federal land management agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife Service