Park rangers in Cleveland and Cincinnati are armed, but those in Columbus are not.
That soon could change with the results of a study that is currently under way.
Central Ohio Metro Parks sees nearly seven million annual visitors, and safety is the rangers’ first priority.
“We’re very big on visible patrol,” said Larry Peck, a ranger with the metro parks. “We like to kind of think of ourselves as much as crime preventers as well as crime fighters.”
Rangers, in part, also serve as maintenance workers, grounds crew and patrol officers.
“But one of the things we don’t do is go into situations where you need to be armed in order to do something positive in that situation,” Peck said.
That all could change. A consulting firm is currently conducting a study to determine whether rangers should carry guns.
Debra Knapke is a former board member at Inniswood Metro Gardens. She said she is divided on the issue of arming rangers.
“I would never want a ranger to be unable to protect him or herself,” she said. “Although it concerns me that if a ranger has a gun, will somebody else think that they can bring their gun into the Metro Parks - even though they’re not supposed to?”
The addition of a gun to a park ranger’s belt is not as simple as buying and wearing a firearm. It could ultimately have an effect on the staffing of rangers at each park.
“If I was a deputy all by myself, I’d be happy to get some backup,” Peck said. “
Backup hasn’t been needed very often inside of the parks. There has been one homicide in the past 28 years.
Rangers also write about 40 tickets per year which are mostly for alcohol, drugs and public indecency.
Park officials also say that visitors are vigilant in reporting suspicious behavior.
“It makes me want to know the answer to the question – who are they going to shoot? Hopefully, no one,” Knapke said.
Officials agree that there is no easy answer to the question of whether to arm the rangers.
A decision on the outside study is expected by mid-September.
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