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Women Fear Sexual Assault Spree Along Manhattan's West Side

By Carla Zanoni | June 23, 2011 7:43am | Updated on June 23, 2011 12:57pm

By Leslie Albrecht, Tuan Nguyen and Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo staff

MANHATTAN — A string of sexual assaults on the west side has left women rattled while the suspects remain at large.

Four women were assaulted last weekend in Washington Heights, Inwood and the Upper West Side. Posters offering $2,000 rewards for tips on suspects have been unwelcome to many residents, who see them as unsettling reminders that the attackers are still on the loose.

"It's a gorgeous day and instead of focusing on that, I'm looking at these faces," Inwood resident Emily Short, 28, said pointing at posters on street lamps while walking through a farmer's market on Saturday. "I’m glad the cops are looking, but really when it comes down to it, what are we supposed to do?"

Police sketch of suspect in June 10 sexual assault of woman on 75th Street and Broadway.
Police sketch of suspect in June 10 sexual assault of woman on 75th Street and Broadway.
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Courtesy of the NYPD

Yahira Duarte, 36, of Washington Heights has started to take cabs home whenever she stays out past 9 p.m.

"It shouldn't be this way, but I need to feel safe where I live," said Duarte.

This month's string of attacks began at 2:30 a.m. on June 10 at the West 75th Street and Broadway intersection when a man in his 30s threw a 20-year-old woman to the ground before putting his hands inside her underwear, police said.

Police released a sketch and video of the suspect.

The same evening, a second sexual attack was reported when a similar looking man allegedly raped a 28-year-old woman in Inwood Hill Park after luring her into a secluded area of the Dyckman Fields section.

Though police sketches depicting the two suspects look similar, police said there is no clear evidence to connect the incidents.

A third attack happened within hours on June 10, when a 37-year-old Washington Heights woman was sexually assaulted by a 25-30-year-old man who grabbed her outside her fifth-floor apartment near 192nd Street and Broadway. The man dragged her up to the eighth floor of her building, where he sexually assaulted and robbed her before fleeing, police said.

Police have released video of the attacker entering the victim's building.

The spree continued with a fourth attack of a 32-year-old woman as she was walking along 184th Street near Broadway in the early morning hours when a man described as between the agest of 18 and 25 tried to rip off her clothing before escaping to the A train station.

Police have since released video of the alleged attacker fumbling with his MetroCard moments after the attack.

Police have not publically spoken about leads in the cases. But they recently canvased a section of Washington Heights last Friday after someone reported seeing a man who matched a police sketch of the attacker, according to Capt. Jose Navarro of the 34th Precinct.

News of the Northern Manhattan attacks reignited fears for many residents as it comes in the wake of two still-unsolved sexual attacks in Inwood Hill Park last year.

Video image of suspect in June 11 sexual assault on 184th Street and Broadway.
Video image of suspect in June 11 sexual assault on 184th Street and Broadway.
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Courtesy of the NYPD

For Washington Heights resident Kristy Bais, 35, news of the attacks that occurred near her home have left her worried, especially when coming home from her job in the Bronx.

"We get off at work quite late, around 3:00 a.m., so it's a great concern of mine. I get scared," she said adding that she had been out late during the weekend of the attacks. "I heard the news and thought, 'Oh wow, it could have been me. It happened right at Broadway.'"

Bais said her family in Long Island has asked her to carry pepper spray around as precaution.

Tiffany Rivera, a 21-year-old Washington Heights resident, said she now makes sure to go out with a group of friends.

"I still feel fine walking here [during the day] but I don't go out at night now," she said.

Women on the Upper West Side are also on high alert in a neighborhood that dealt with a high-profile rape case in nearby Riverside Park last summer.

DeAnna Rieber, a real estate broker and president of West 75th Street block association, sent out an email blast alerting neighbors about the neighborhood attack as soon she heard about it, reminding residents of a service that provides rides home for women at night.

Rieber said the attack sent a chill through her neighborhood, where she said violent crime is rare. The Upper West Side's most common crime is property theft, such as unattended purses stolen from Starbucks, Rieber said.

But when her 16-year-old daughter was heading out for the night recently, Rieber told her to come home by midnight.

"There was an extra added concern in my voice that I think she heard," Rieber said.

"When we see these kind of things, you get alarmed," Rieber said. "People are very concerned. We've all gotten, because of the safety of the neighborhood over the years, very complacent about things. We like to think our neighborhood is a place where you can walk any time of day and night and not have anything happen to you."