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Uptown Residents Demand Extra Police Presence After Weekend Sex Attacks

By Carla Zanoni | June 13, 2011 4:00pm | Updated on June 14, 2011 6:43am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER MANHATTAN — Police have flooded Washington Heights and Inwood as three women were sexually assaulted within hours this weekend. 

The NYPD's 34th Precinct was bolsterred by 30 temporary officers to respond to the crime-filled weekend, according to City Councilman Robert Jackson. But, for many, the temporary force is not enough.

"We’ve asked for help in the past and gotten short term responses," said Washington Heights resident Calvin Torres, 36. "More cops on the streets for a week or a month aren't going to change anything in the long run. We need a constant presence and it's just not here."

Some women said they were taking their own precautions following the attacks.

"I am now looking for a running partner for both early morning runs before work and evening runs," said Washington Heights resident JoAna Swan. "Better safe than sorry."

Other women said they would carry pepper spray or some other form of protection. Still others said they had no plans to change their behavior in the neighborhood's parks.

"I've always used the parks a lot and will continue to do so," wrote Washington Heights resident and Community Board 12 member Elizabeth Lorris Ritter on Facebook.

Others still bristled at the idea that women need to change their behavior to avoid assault. 

"We should focus not on how women can avoid being raped, but on how we don't teach men not to assault (violent/sexual/verbal) women," tweeted Washington Heights resident Jenna Cardinale.

The string of unrelated sexual attacks began Friday evening.

First a 28-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man who dragged her into a secluded area of Dyckman Fields in Inwood Hill Park, near the site of the high-profile unsolved murder and rape of Julliard student Sarah Fox in 2004 that still lingers in the minds of residents.

Hours later, two more women were sexually assaulted in Washington Heights.

A man allegedly attempted to rip off a 32-year-old woman's clothing as she walked along 184th Street near Bennett Avenue, but he fled to the A train when she fought back.

A 37-year-old woman was allegedly attacked in her apartment building when a man grabbed her at knife-point outside her fifth-floor home, dragging her to the eighth-floor where he sexually assaulted her and robbed her of jewelry, cash, a cell phone and her keys.

"Stay aware, and stay together. 3 attacks in one weekend. 1 is too many," wrote Washington Heights resident Melissa Riker on Twitter, where residents voiced fear and concern throughout the weekend.

Councilman Jackson worked to inform residents of the attacks, passing out flyers on Sunday night with a police sketch and photograph of two of the alleged attackers along Bennett Avenue and Dyckman Street. 

Police have issued a sketch of the Inwood Hill Park attacker, as well as video of the man who attacked the 37-year-old women in her building. As of yet, little information has been made public about the Bennett Avenue attack.

Jackson also sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly asking for additional help on weekends.

Jackson was joined in the call for a permanent additional force by a host of local elected officials at a press conference held at the entrance to Inwood Hill Park Monday morning.

"The recent string of sexual assaults against women has shaken our community to its core and reminded us that we can't let up in our fight against crime, particularly when it comes to protecting women and families," said State Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

He was joined by Jackson, Assemblymen Herman Denny Farrell and Guillermo Linares, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and other community leaders.

They asked for increased police patrols throughout Washington Heights and Inwood;  undercover officers at Inwood Hill Park and other local parks; the reconstitution of the Inwood Safety Patrol, a volunteer pedestrian safety group; and violence awareness programs and self-defense training for women.

"This is a sad day because we have had to wait for something like this to get attention to this problem in our community," Rodriguez said. "We call for more law enforcement in this area, which is filled with hard working and middle class people."