By Olivia Scheck
DNAinfo Reporter Producer
MANHATTAN — A series of assaults on elderly Asian women at housing projects on the Lower East Side has police searching for five people who were captured on surveillance tape, putting local residents on edge.
The crimes began on March 31 when a woman in her 50s was assaulted in the Gompers Houses, on Pitt Street, about 1:20 a.m.
The thugs struck again just an hour later at the nearby Baruch Houses, near the FDR Drive, when they assaulted a 60-year-old woman.
Video surveillance taken that night shows three men waiting outside of a building, while two young women enter.
On April 3, a 71-year-old woman was attacked at the Baruch Houses in the evening. The next day, the group beat a 66-year-old woman. This time, the attack was in broad daylight.
The most recent assault occurred on April 5 when a 68-year-old woman was beaten on East Broadway.
The assaults are being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force, which investigates crimes against persons targeted for their ethnicity or age.
A police source added that no property was stolen from the victims during the assaults.
Gloria Estimada, 69, who is originally from the Philippines and lives in the Masaryk Towers next to the Gompers Houses, said she gets nervous the few times she comes home late at night.
“Maybe once or twice a month I go to visit my daughter and come home around 11 or 12 [at night]," she said. "There are a lot of people outside, but I’m still scared.”
A resident of the Baruch Houses, Mille Ortiz, 56, said she never leaves her apartment without an escort.
“I stay inside until I see somebody I know,” she said, adding there are no security cameras in her lobby or near the building's entrance. “I have my bodyguards.”
Ortiz has also observed a lot of "new faces" in the neighborhood lately, calling them mostly "young punks" and "lowlifes."
Another Baruch Houses resident thought the assaults could be part of gang initiations.
"Why else wouldn’t they take the money?” said Nancy Plajas, 28.
Kip Lavinger, 44, lives down the street from the Gompers Houses and was busy Friday afternoon taping posters he printed of the suspects outside the Pitt Street building where the initial assualt occurred.
“I’d like to see the police here doing what I’m doing," he said. “There could be a whole lot more done on their part to educate the community about what’s going on here.”
Lavinger, who noted he has an Asian girlfriend, also offered a warning to the suspected perpetrators.
“It’s horrendous,” he said. “They don’t deserve justice — they deserve retribution."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers' Web site at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.