Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Park rangers more threatened by humans than animals

Kirk Johnson reported in yesterday's New York Times, dateline Golden, Colorado (just west of Denver), on the increasing threats that criminals pose to state and national park rangers. Some of the threats arise from the sorts of offenses associated with the great outdoors, e.g., hunting infractions such as using a spotlight with deer, but others are more generic crimes carried out in or overflowing to public parks. The part of the story that was most powerful for me was one Colorado ranger's description of the difference that place makes--in particular as regards spatial isolation. The man quoted is Ty Petersburg, Division of Wildlife Manager of a heavily used district west of Denver:

A couple of years ago, Mr. Petersburg began following a suspicious-looking vehicle on Interstate 70 — a pursuit that led all the way into the suburbs of Denver, where the driver leaped from his car to attack. Minutes later, perhaps 30 local and county police officers arrived in a siren-screaming swirl of backup that Mr. Petersburg, 31, had summoned by radio. It was a familiar scene: the police helping out their own.

More often, he said, it is the opposite case, where help is willing in spirit, but impossible in practice. Earlier this fall, for example, Mr. Petersburg was in a mountain region in the middle of nowhere and came upon a vehicle driven by a man with outstanding arrest warrants on his name and lots of cocaine in his car. He again called for backup.

“ ‘We’d like to come help you,’ ” he quoted the nearest big urban county sheriff’s office as saying, “ ‘But we don’t have a clue where you’re at.’ ”

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