Visitation Increases to NPS Parks in DC Area –
Visitation increased 41% in the National Park Service (NPS), National Capital Region (Washington, DC Metropolitan Area), between 1990 and 2015. According to NPS records during that 25-year period, visits rose from 33 million to 56 million. (See: A)
Population Increase 43% – Washington-Baltimore-Arlington Metropolitan Area
Closely matching the increase in visitation was a 43% population increase in the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington Metropolitan Area between 1990 and 2017. During that time, the population grew from 6.7 million to 9.6 million. (See: B)
Traffic Volume Increases on NPS Roads
In 1993, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) was 74,600 vehicles a day. In 2013, the AADT was 117,000 vehicles a day. This represents a 36% increase in traffic volume from 1993 to 2013. (See: C) Traffic congestion in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area was determined to be the 13th worst in the world by INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard.
United States Park Police Understaffing Caused by NPS Neglect
Despite significant increases in population, park visitation, and traffic volume, there has been no corresponding increase in USPP officer positions ( ZERO ). Since the mid- 1990s, the NPS has maintained that the USPP needs only 639 officers to perform their mission. The 639 officer positions the NPS says is enough, aren’t even all in Washington, DC. There are about 100 USPP officers assigned to New York and about 50 to California. The remaining 500 work in the DC area. In 1990, the USPP had about 600 officers, and currently it has about 650. An example of the effect of the NPS’s staffing policy is that, despite a 36% increase in traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway since 1990, the number of USPP officers assigned to that road has not changed since the 1980’s.
Police staffing studies are conducted using a variety of methodologies. They all include the consideration of some combination of these factors: population, geography (terrain and acreage), crime rates, desired response times, traffic congestion, and budget. Booz, Allen & Hamilton (Booz-Allen), a consulting firm, completed the most recent independent staffing analysis of the USPP in 1999. Booz-Allen concluded that the USPP needed 820 officers to operate effectively. They published their findings about 18 months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The NPS has recklessly ignored the staffing recommendation of Booz-Allen for the last 18 years.
It would be difficult to imagine, considering the current operational environment, how any new independent staffing analysis could conclude that the USPP needed less than 820 officers. Unpersuaded by the evidence the NPS still stubbornly clings to their dogma that the USPP only needs 639 officers. Their refusal to adjust their position based on the evidence, forces the National Capital Region’s USPP Officers and Law Enforcement Rangers to protect 23 million more visitors a year, with no corresponding increase in staffing. This puts the safety of the public, treasured cultural resources, and officers in unwarranted danger.
The United States Park Police- Fraternal Order of Police has concluded that the USPP needs approximately 1000 officers to accomplish their vital mission. They agree with Booz-Allen that in 1999, the USPP needed 820 officers. However, in 2017 at least 180 additional officers are justified based on the following factors:
- A 41% increase in park visitation since 1990
- A 43% population increase in the DC Metropolitan Area since 1990
- Record-setting traffic volume on DC Area NPS roads
- Increased threat environment
- The opening of new facilities on the National Mall:
- World War II Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial
- National Museum of African American History & Culture
- Construction of hiker-biker trails in NPS Parks on the Anacostia River
In 2017, despite overwhelming evidence that the USPP is dangerously understaffed, the NPS shows no sign of abandoning its decades long tradition of recklessly ignoring the problem. The USPP needs this staffing increase to be able to quickly and professionally respond to critical incidents. Immediate action must be taken to compel the NPS to fix the USPP’s operational readiness issues.
1990 & 2015 Reports
Table 3: Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Population: 2000
Washington–Baltimore, DC–MD–VA–WV CMSA
MSA/CSMA Code 8872, Rank 4
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Capital Parks – East, Washington, D.C. – Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Maryland Traffic Safety Plan, June 2015), Page 20