An on-call civilian bike-buddy patrol, several communitye-newsletters, a text-for-safety-alert service and self-defenseclasses are just a few of the strategies being employed byresidents of Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, Park Slope and WindsorTerrace to keep each other safe.
The flurry of strategizing, preparation and empowerment effortsare coming in response to collective frustration over the factthat, since March, at least 10 women have been targeted in a seriesof sexual assaults and attempted rapes, including one completedrape – yet the list of suspects has only grown as time goes on.
The latest assault was at 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21,on Prospect Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Local police response has varied. Patrols have been increased inthe Greenwood Heights and Park Slope area, three suspect sketcheshave been released, and pamphlets containing safety tips have beenhanded out in English and Spanish.
Most recently, an NYPD mobile command post was set up at Fifthand Prospect Avenues, near where several recent attacks haveoccurred. Between 16 and 32 officers from the 72nd Precinct will beon hand at all times to answer questions and to monitor certainareas, particularly between 4 p.m. and midnight.
However, some residents say they haven’t seen a single flyer ora single cop on their block, and question whether increased policepresence will really help when other factors – like poor streetlighting, lack of surveillance cameras and clerks at subwaystations, and local strip or night clubs that deposit drunk andunruly men into the streets at all hours of the night — add to theunsafe environment.
If you don’t think there’s a correlation between the time ofthe attacks and these nightclubs, then you’re ignoring it, said aSunset Park resident who lives on 39th Street between Third andFourth Avenues, where a new club recently opened. Where do youthink these people go when the nightclub closes? They go into theneighborhood, frustrated.
If it’s really a strip club, then it feeds that mentality thatit’s okay to whistle, cat call or do something bad, added Dana,another concerned resident.
Deputy Inspector Raul Pintos insisted that a culture ofmisogyny is never an acceptable culture, and that the policedeploy resources as necessary when cases are reported.
Dan Murphy, chair of Community Board 7’s Public Safetycommittee, maintained the board’s history of taking a stand on…strip clubs… and night club liquor licenses.
Regarding street lighting, a Windsor Terrace landlord namedMichael came to the latest CB 7 Public Safety meeting to requestlights at subway stations after one of his tenants was rubbed upagainst on her way home.
Fort Hamilton Parkway is long and empty. We need lights,people, he said, noting that the station’s exits open into adarkened overpass.
CB 7 sent a letter to the Department of Transportation earlierthis year regarding the dark stations at Prospect Avenue;Assemblymembers James Brennan and Joan Millman have said they willlook into getting flood lights for the area.
Thus far, all of the attacks have been on petite, white women,most of whom were wearing skirts, said police. Most of the womenfought back, either physically or screaming until neighbors ranout, a point that police and elected officials have emphasizedwhile handing out rape whistles or organizing self-defenseclasses.
The next women’s self-defense class is scheduled for 1 p.m. onSaturday, October 8, at the Sunset Park Recreation Center. Therewill also be a March and Rally for Awareness and Empowerment,organized by Councilmember Sara Gonzalez’s office, at 5:30 p.m. onWednesday, October 5, up Fifth Avenue from 53rd Street to 44thStreet.