Police urge caution following string of sexual attacks
A 69-year-old woman is the latest victim in a string of early morning sexual attacks in Hamilton Heights and lower Washington Heights. According to police and news reports, the woman, who lives around W. 158th Street and Riverside Drive, was on her way home from work around 4 a.m. on Aug. 18 when the attacker followed her into the building and then into the elevator where she was raped and robbed.
A surveillance video in the apartment building caught the man on tape following the woman into the elevator.
Police believe it was the same man in two other incidents earlier in the month, one at 2:45 a.m. on Aug.1 on W. 148th Street and Broadway and the second on Aug. 8 at 1:55 a.m. on W.144th Street and Convent Avenue. The women, who are all white, range in age from 23 to 65.
In all three incidents, the attacker is described as a 5-foot, 9-inch African-American male with a muscular build and between 30 and 40 years of age. In the video he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and white sneakers with a red diagonal stripe.
Close to 50 people packed into a room on the second floor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church on W. 142nd Street for an Aug. 20 meeting held by DONAR, a local activist group. Fans pushed the heavy air as the standing room only crowd heard from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and New York Police Department 30th Precinct Commander Scott Shanley about the attacks, and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Police have increased their presence in the neighborhood, with both foot patrols and vehicle patrols while detectives conduct their investigation.
Each of the victims was followed before being attacked, so police are advising women to be cautious when walking through the area’s unpopulated streets, such as by not wearing headphones or ear buds. People should also approach their buildings with their keys already out so they aren’t delayed in opening the door. Keys can also be used as a weapon against an attacker.
Anyone with information about the recent series of sexual assaults between W. 144th and W. 158th Streets is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then entering TIP577.
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.