Police have beefed up security at Forest Park after a second woman was attacked by a man wielding a stun gun within a six-month period, and community residents believe another basic measure can be taken to protect fellow parkgoers.
A 69-year-old woman was grabbed by a clean-shaven white man with light brown hair, pushed to the ground and raped along the bridle path in Forest Park Aug. 26, according to police. Authorities were investigating whether the recent attack was connected to an incident in March, a spokesman for the NYPD said Wednesday.
Woodhaven Residents Block Association President Ed Wendell, who walks near Victory Field in the park nearly every morning with his wife Josephine, said lights at the greenspace are timed to go off early in the morning while it is still dark,
“It’s putting people at total risk over something so trivial... lights. It’s not an electrical issue, it’s a timing thing,” Wendell said, describing joggers carrying flashlights on their 6 a.m. workouts.
The Woodhaven activist said that he has been complaining about the timers for the past few weeks and he noticed Wednesday morning that two-thirds of the lights were working.
“That is encouraging,” he said. “Still there are stretches where there are two or three lights out in a row.”
A spokesman for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the legislator got in touch with the city’s Department of Transportation, which oversees the lighting, and the agency had conducted an initial study.
The DOT said that an inspection of lights along Forest Park Drive and elsewhere in the park found them to be working, and the agency is discussing the community’s request with the Parks Department.
Crowley, who jogs in Forest Park, said there are also tactics runners can take to help stay safe.
“If you are a female and you want to go into the wooded areas, I strongly suggest that you go with a running mate,” she said.
Crowley said that since the rape occurred nearby Union Turnpike and 72nd Street last month, police have been monitoring the area around the clock and set up a mobile command center within the park.
“The fact is we have more police and we are going to have more police until we catch the person responsible,” Crowley said.
Wendell said neighborhood residents have noticed the increased security, but parkgoers still have a sense of unease.
“People in the community, obviously we can’t speak for everyone, but there is a general feeling of real apprehension,” he said, describing how he would like a more permanent police presence in Forest Park, which takes up more than 500 acres of the borough.
Authorities are offering more than $20,000 for help in nabbing the suspect, who police said struck the woman but did not fire the stun gun last month. The victim, an immigrant who does not speak English well, waited several days before reporting the rape, sources told CBS 2.
The city is putting up $10,000, and the Police Department another $10,000 for a tip leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect, who was described by the NYPD as between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10 and age 30 to 40. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and black sweatpants, according to cops.
An additional $2,000 comes from Crime Stoppers, which will give the money to anyone providing information that results in an arrest and indictment, the NYPD said.
Authorities were looking into whether an attempted rape six months ago could be related to the recent case.
“I can’t be 100 percent sure, but the last time there was an attempted rape or attack was back in March. There seem to be some similarities based on location in the wooded trails and based on the use on stun guns,” Crowley said.
In March, a 23-year-old jogger was grabbed from behind and zapped by a man with a stun gun, according to the NYPD. Her attacker was scared off by a couple out walking their dog, cops said.
A Howard Beach man was arrested and charged by police in the March 29 attempted rape, but the Queens district attorney’s office deferred prosecution on the case.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS, submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at www.crimes
©2013 Community News Group
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