Over the weekend, police released a sketch of a serial groper who they say may have attacked at least seven different women this year all on the Upper East Side. A reader told us about her close encounter with the groper on Sunday morning, which has scared some women from going out at night. Today, reader Maria J. wrote to tell us she too had a close encounter with the groper...and she also has seen him several times in her neighborhood, and believes she knows where he either hangs out or lives. And she told all this to the police yesterday...but became increasingly frustrated by their underwhelming response. "I need to learn how the system works now, because I could help someone else not get hurt, but the police won't listen to my information. What if someone gets murdered by this guy, or gets raped by this guy? It's disturbing me."
Maria told us that she encountered the groper on Tuesday July 5th, at the handball courts she regularly goes to at 96th Street and 1st Avenue.
It was broad daylight, 11 a.m., and there was nobody playing at the wall but myself, and a couple of city workers doing gardening stuff there. And he just walked right up to me as I was hitting the wall...He came up to me, I said hello to him. There are lots of interesting looking people in the neighborhood who are nice. They dont look like they're nice, but they're actually very nice people, so I didn't look at this guy as a threat at first. He didn't say anything to me, he just stared at me. I couldn't tell if he was high, or if he was challenged, but there was something wrong.
He looked younger than 25-30, I think he's 18-20, and if he's older, it'd shock me. His face is very young, although he had muscular arms. He went and sat behind me, just sat at the base of the fence. As I was leaving, he went to grab me, and I hit him with my racket. I just thought he was a jerk, because he looked like a boy.
I'm 5'1", and he was shorter than me. He didn't seem threatening, he seemed stupid. I was more pissed than I was scared. If it was at night, maybe I would have been scared. I was just more pissed he had ruined my day.
Then yesterday, Maria recounted the story to a friend, who showed her the police sketch of the groper, and she was floored: "it's so accurate it's shocking." She realized that she had seen him five or six times in the neighborhood since the attack two weeks ago, and had even seen him walk into the projects between 92nd and 93rd Streets on 1st Avenue, which is where she believes he either lives or regularly hangs out. She added, "I know it's him, and there's absolutely no way that I have him mistaken for someone else. I dont think he realizes who I am, because I havent played at that court again since that experience."
So yesterday, she called her local precinct, the 19th, to report the crime, and instead was faced with an increasingly frustrating and seemingly indifferent response from cops. At first, the precinct directed her to call Crimestoppers, because she hadn't been touched, and therefore wasn't a victim. When she called Crimestoppers, they said she had to fill out a report with her local precinct, and added that "the precinct didn't want to do their job." So she called back the 19th, got another detective, and had this exchange:
I told the cops this, and they said, "The next time you see him, call 911 and they'll get him. There's nothing we can do, he didn't touch you, you cant make a report." Cant I just get on the record with some kind of complaint or something? Dont you want me to show you where I think he lives? And they said, "Just call us, and we'll have a squad car there within 3-5 minutes." So you're saying to me I should stand in harms way for 3-5 minutes? I'm not a professional, I dont know how to look obscure. In order for me to see him, I'd have to walk by him.
I found that to be appalling. what are they doing? When you read all of this stuff that the police are actively looking for this guy, they're not. How are they hunting him when they won't listen to me?
We spoke to DCPI, who told us that she definitely was a victim of a crime—the detective said that even if a person fights off a mugger/attacker, "of course" there was still a crime against them, and technically they were still the victim of it, whether it was completed or not. He advised that if that situation happened to anyone, they should first call 911; then they should contact their local precinct and fill out a report. If someone sees a person who looks like the sketch of the groper, they should contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
However, he also advised us that the groper case was specifically being handled by the Manhattan Special Victims Squad (who deal exclusively with sexual crimes), and that victims such as our reader can directly contact them at 212-860-6857.