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Rapes Rise in Chinatown Over Past Decade

By Patrick Hedlund | September 21, 2011 7:03am | Updated on September 21, 2011 7:52am
Rapes have risen 67 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to DNAinfo's Crime & Safety Report.
Rapes have risen 67 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to DNAinfo's Crime & Safety Report.
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LOWER EAST SIDE — Reported rapes in Chinatown and parts of the Lower East Side have shot up by 400 percent in the past few years.

There were 10 incidents reported last year, compared to just two in 2008, according to figures revealed by DNAinfo.com’s Crime & Safety Report.

But advocates warn that staggering number could be even higher, based on recent high-profile cases that may discourage victims from reporting incidents because of a failure to prosecute the accused attackers.

DNAinfo.com’s report showed an increase in reported rapes during the years from 2001 to 2010 within the Fifth Precinct, which covers Chinatown, Little Italy and portions of the Lower East Side and SoHo.

In addition to the whopping 400-percent increase from 2008 to 2010, the area saw a 67.7 percent jump in reported rapes last year — from six instances in 2009 to 10 in 2010.

DNAinfo also found that rapes increased 233 percent from 2001 to 2010, but fell 16.7 percent overall since 1993.

While the NYPD's handling of complaints suggests that the increase in reported rapes can be attributed to the fact that more victims are coming forward, rape survivor and counselor Jay Grayce said that recent cases involving former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and that of the two police officers accused of raping a woman in her East Village apartment have actually created a reverse effect.

“High-profile cases give the illusion that more people are reporting it,” said Grayce, who hosts a radio call-in show for rape survivors.

“It’s quite the opposite from the feedback we’re getting from our audience … Most people feel more apprehensive to try to speak to authorities.”

This year, rapes are on the rise again in the Fifth Precinct, with seven reported incidents so far in 2011 compared to six during the same time period last year, according to the NYPD’s own CompStat figures.

A police source said a number of factors could have influenced the increase, including more residents moving into the precinct and an influx of new nightlife establishments in the area, as well as the possibility that patrons visiting bars and clubs in adajcent precincts end up getting attacked in the Fifth.

The source also said that the numbers could be skewed based on when an attack is reported. He noted that if a victim reports a rape years after it happened, as in one recent case in the precinct, the incident gets included in the present year's statistics.

While the Fifth Precinct has weathered a notable uptick in the amount of reported rapes over the nine years between 2001 and 2010, the adjacent Seventh Precinct on the Lower East Side has steadily dropped over that same time period and also experienced a decrease over the 17-year period.

In the Seventh Precinct, reported rapes remained at 11 in each of the years between 2008 and 2010. The area saw a 15.4 percent drop over the nine-year period, as well as a 45 percent decrease over the 17-year period.

Combined statistics from the two precincts ranked Chinatown and the Lower East Side the 42nd safest neighborhood for the crime of rape out of 69 citywide — but if the neighborhoods were split into their two precincts, the Fifth would rank much lower. The precincts were combined for the purposes of the Crime & Safety Report because the Lower East Side and Chinatown straddle both.

Recent incidents in the community include a string of sexual assaults of young women in Chinatown and the Lower East Side dating back to last year, as well as the attempted rape of a Chinatown shopkeeper last summer.

Grayce explained that the failed prosecution of both Strauss-Kahn and the two police officers makes the public believe that men in positions of authority feel they can get away with crimes of that nature, despite evidence of impropriety.

“It’s those kind of cases that eat into the consciousness of people,” she said.

In Chinatown, specifically, the large immigrant population also tends to try to deal with these issues within the community due to a mistrust of the establishment, said Esther Wang, who works for a tenants-rights arm of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence.

“Particularly with immigrants from China, they have a very different relationship with government,” she said. “People don’t necessarily have the mindset that when something like this happens, the first place they’ll go is to the NYPD.”