More Police Needed to Keep Upper Manhattan Residents Safe After Rash of Sexual Attacks
By Albor Ruiz
June 15, 2011
These days a walk in the park is no walk in the park for residents of northern Manhattan, especially women.
In what seems like a throwback to the bad old days, violent crime has made a comeback, spreading fear in the Washington Heights and Inwood communities.
Three sexual assaults took place in as many days in the area, last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Two of the women were attacked in the Bennett Ave. area, a short distance from the 34th Precinct stationhouse. The third was assaulted in Inwood Hill Park, where three other women have also been victims of sexual predators in the last 16 months.
Residents are rightfully alarmed and, along with elected officials, have mobilized to combat this crime wave in which women have become the targets of choice. They are calling on the NYPD to do whatever it takes to restore safety to their community.
"We will not simply sit back and watch crime return to northern Manhattan," said state Senator Adriano Espaillat.
Espaillat along with Councilmen Ydanis Rodríguez and Robert Jackson, and Assemblymen Guillermo Linares and Herman Farrell, as well as community leaders rallied residents on Monday at the Inwood park to demand increased police protections and greater community involvement.
"While law enforcement must step up its efforts to find the perpetrators and prevent future attacks," Espaillat added, "We cannot be fully safe until all of us work together and look out for one another."
On Sunday, community volunteers passed out 1,000 flyers in two hours containing information about the suspects and urged residents not to allow fear to keep them away from the parks.
While the elected officials demanded more law enforcement patrols at local parks, they expressed their concern over impending budget cuts that would reduce the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol officers.
"All this is happening when the Parks Department budget is slated to be reduced by $900,000. Even now, before the cuts, there are only two PEP officers assigned to cover Manhattan parks north of 110th St.," Rodríguez said. "It is a shame that we have to go through situations like this for the Parks Department to recognize it has to be responsible for providing better security in our parks."
The NYPD has responded to the community concerns by assigning 30 more officers and four sergeants to protect the community, said Rodríguez, who is hopeful this increase will be permanent.
The elected officials and community members called for the urgent implementation by the 34th Precinct and community groups of a four-point plan to confront the growing violence:
Increased patrols and other police activity.
Additional police presence, including undercover officers, at local parks.
Formation of community watch groups.
Violence-awareness programs and self-defense training for women.