By Ivan Pereira
The police have been increasing their efforts and resources to apprehend two sexual predators who have terrorized at least 13 women in southeast Queens since late last year, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said.
The Police Department announced it had set up a special task force with its Special Victims Unit to investigate and catch the perpetrators behind the attacks. Since the announcement of the group's creation last Thursday, officers have conducted aggressive searches in Jamaica, St. Albans and Springfield Gardens and have questioned several suspects, according to the senator.
"While there have been no arrests, we are pleased to see that Police Commissioner Kelly and local precincts have significantly beefed up patrols to deal with the crisis, and I am confident they will arrest and prosecute the perpetrators," Smith said in a statement.
The 13-member, citywide task force was established days after the senator and other area leaders urged police to work harder on apprehending the rapists.
Smith said he was contemplating petitioning the governor to call in state troopers and the National Guard for assistance, but no formal request had been made as of press time Tuesday, according to his office.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who called on the NYPD to create such a task force in February, was planning a rally in St. Albans Park Tuesday night to give neighborhood women advice and pointers on how to protect themselves.
"It will give people another opportunity to remember it's not safe out there. There needs to be an awareness," he said.
One suspect, who has been linked to at least four sexual assaults in Jamaica, St. Albans and Laurelton since July 10, is described by police as a black man between 19 and 23, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build and close-cut black hair. Many of this man's victims were waiting at bus stops late at night, according to police.
He was reported to have physically assaulted a 18-year-old woman Aug. 8 on 145th Avenue in Laurelton, according to police.
Officers were also searching for another man they say sexually assaulted eight women in southeast Queens between Nov. 9 and July 9. He was described as a black male who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and had a bandana featuring dollar bills that covered his face.
The NYPD has offered separate $12,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crimestoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.