MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted reports that Occupy Wall Street protesters are failing to report crimes as "despicable," saying they are putting the rest of the city at risk following allegations of multiple sexual attacks at Zuccotti Park.
Bloomberg told reporters he is deeply concerned about crime in the encampment, where protesters have been living since Sept. 17.
"Using the word “'very' understates it. It is a very high priority,” said the mayor, who cited the arrest of Brooklyn’s Tonye Iketubosin, 26, who is charged with sexually abusing a teenage girl on Oct. 25.
Iketubosin — who Bloomberg said worked as a member of the encampment's food service team — is also being questioned in connection with another incident on Oct. 29 when an 18 year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted in her tent while she slept, police have said.
The mayor described the second incident as a “rape," but a police spokeswoman declined to comment. Iketubosin has not been charged in that case.
Neither alleged victim came forward immediately.
Bloomberg also slammed as “disturbing” reports that protesters were failing to report crimes to police.
“There have been reports that… when people in Zuccotti Park become aware of crimes, instead of calling police, they form a circle around the perpetrator, chastise him or her and chase him or her out into the rest of the city to do who knows what to who knows whom," he said.
“If this is in fact happening, and it’s very hard to get good information, it is despicable and I think it is outrageous and it really allows the criminal to strike again, making all of us less safe.”
When crimes have been reported, police have moved in swiftly and made arrests, the mayor added.
“It’s not fair to everyone else to not report a crime when it occurs,” he said.
But Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have denied the space is unsafe.
"I don't know any specifics about this person or incident — but I can say that we take security and safety very seriously at the park and have many dedicated working groups that are devoted to creating and maintaining a safe space in Liberty Square," Occupy Wall Street spokesman Patrick Bruner said following the arrest of Iketubosin.
Bruner did not immediately respond to a request for comment in response to the mayor.
Despite the recent incidents, the mayor also reiterated Thursday that the city has no intention of evicting protesters, but will take necessary steps to ensure that public safety is preserved.
“This administration will take appropriate steps whenever we think [they] are appropriate to keep this city safe, and at the same time to protect people’s right to protest,” he said.
“There’s no ‘but’ when it comes to the right to express yourself.”
The mayor also noted that the owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Properties, has its own concerns about the space, which must be open to the public 24-hours-a-day under an agreement with the city.
“They are clearly worried about their liability and we are dealing with them all the time,” he said.
“It is one of these problems that there is no easy answer, but there is a right answer. And the right answer is allow people to protest, but at the same time provide public safety and quality of life issues.”
The mayor made his comments following a discussion at Columbia University with Jeff Immelt, the chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and the CEO of GE about how cities can held spawn innovation.