Ongoing Safety Concerns in Windsor Terrace and South Slope
As most of you know, there has been a string of sexual assaults, ranging from groping to rape, in South Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Greenwood Heights, and Sunset Park over the last few months. Police believe that many of these attacks were perpetrated by the same suspect.
Most recently, this past Sunday night (Oct. 9th), a woman was attacked in Windsor Terrace while on her way home.
All of us have the right to walk the streets our neighborhoods without fear of attack. We must bring the men behind these vicious actions to justice.
Because of the urgency of the situation – and the right kind of pressure from the community – the NYPD’s 72nd and 78th Precincts are increasing their presence in our community. As you have probably seen, the police have put in extra patrols and have distributed thousands of fliers with police sketches of the suspects. They are taking undercover measures as well. In addition, the Transit Police have been involved, and have increased their patrols.
As the police have increased their presence in our community, we have also worked with community organizations to ensure that their interactions with community members are productive and respectful. The community groups Safe Slope and Hollaback sent an open letter to the 72nd & 78th Precinct about issues of police sensitivity. In response, I convened a meeting between the precinct commanding officers and community organizers from Hollaback! and Safe Slope. I am happy to report that:
- Effectively immediately, police officers will make women aware that they are being escorted home by the police before starting to follow them. This will help avoid confusion and fear that the individual following them home may be a potential attacker.
- Effective immediately, police officers will provide a “trigger warning” to community residents before showing them a graphic assault video. By giving the individuals the ability to opt out, the NYPD is acknowledging the sensitive nature of viewing attack footage, especially for victims of sexual assault or others who may be triggered by watching violent actions on film.
- Concerned community groups, including Safe Slope and Hollaback!, will draft an updated safety pamphlet for NYPD consideration, which will include community resources and helpful tips on what community members can do to help keep themselves and others safe from sexual assault. The purpose of the updated pamphlet is to provide officers with sensitive and consistent educational messages to share with the public. Inspector Pintos will present the pamphlet through channels to NYPD leadership with the authority to approve materials for public distribution. If approved by NYPD leadership, this pamphlet will be made available to the public in both English and Spanish.
- Lastly, the NYPD will similarly review a proposal from Safe Slope to do sensitivity training at the police orientation, as well as to show an educational video to existing officers prior to their shifts. The purpose of the video is to provide officers with simple strategies to make their interactions with the community more sensitive and educational regarding sexual assault.
While I am happy that the police have taken aggressive steps in response to the string of sexual violence in our community, clearly, more must be done to stop these attacks. I will continue to be in close contact with the police as their response develops.
I am proud of the way that our community has responded, with many organizations and individuals stepping up to help keep everyone safe. Please consider taking some time to volunteer with them:
- Safe Walk: The new grassroots organization Safe Slope has started Safe Walk, a volunteer program that provides free walks home to female- and LGBTQ-identified community members. Call (347) 709-8852 to arrange a safe walk. To volunteer, fill out an application: http://safeslope.tumblr.com/volunteers.
- Brooklyn Bike Patrol (BBP): BBP provides a free bike escort for women from subway stations in Brooklyn, including stations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington. BBP is active seven days a week, from 8pm to 2am on Friday and Saturday, and from 8pm to 12pm Sunday to Thursday. Call (718) 744-7592 to arrange a bike escort. For more information visit their Facebook page here.
- K9Watch: In Kensington and Windsor Terrace, dog walkers are planning to escort members of the neighborhood home at night. To help, volunteer here. To launch the program, they still need to get a critical mass of volunteers!
- Center for Anti-Violence Education is offering additional classes in response to this string of attacks. They can be contacted at info [at] caeny [dot] org or 718-788-1775.
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, but there are some things you can do to help yourself stay safe. When outside, always be aware of your surroundings and avoid wearing headphones, especially after dark. At night, try to plan your walk along well-lit streets and walk with people you know, or consider taking a car service.
Above all, trust your instincts, call police if you feel threatened, and don’t be afraid to make a scene. If you see anything suspicious, or fear you are being followed, you should of course call 911. You can also call the 72nd Precinct (718-965-6311) or the 78th Precinct (718-636-6411). If you aren’t satisfied with the results of these interactions, you should call my office at 718-499-1090.
If you would like to take self-defense classes, the Center for Anti-Violence Education in Park Slope has offered additional classes in response to this string of attacks. They can be contacted at info [at] caeny [dot] org or 718-788-1775.
Remembering to Hold Each Other and Ourselves Accountable
Times like this make it clear how terrorizing sexual assault is, but we should also not forget how prevalent sexual assault is in our society. Every day, people are sexually assaulted and too often their accounts are dismissed, downplayed, or not prosecuted. This indifference keeps victims silent, and attackers prey on that silence. We need to hold the police, the press, your politicians (yes, me too), and each other accountable, to take sexual assault seriously. That will go a long way toward making our neighborhood and all neighborhoods safe for women.
Domestic Violence Vigil
In that spirit, please consider joining us this Friday, October 14, when the Safe Homes Project is holding its 18th Annual Domestic Violence Remembrance Vigil. While we have all been paying attention to the shocking string of sexual assaults on the streets of our community this year, we should not forget that most victims of sexual assault are attacked by people they know. The vigil is at 6:30pm at PS 321 (at the corner of 7th Avenue and 1st Street in Park Slope). Check out their flier for more information.
What does your neighborhood need? An improved park? Safer streets? New school technology? In participatory budgeting, you give your ideas and City Councilmember Brad Lander has set aside $1 million to fund them. And your votes will decide which projects get funded.