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Quinn Calls for Tougher Penalties After Rash of Sex Assaults

By Jill Colvin | October 9, 2012 2:56pm

CITY HALL — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other lawmakers called for tougher penalties against sexual predators Tuesday following a rash of sexual assaults in the city that have left many women on edge.

The mostly state-level initiatives are intended to try to thwart repeat assaults, eliminate loopholes and provide funding to support victims after attacks.

“The recent attacks of women in Central Park and Hudson River Park underscore the need to crack down on sexual predators and also underscores the need to help those who have tragically been victimized by these crimes, to help them become the survivors we know that they are,” Quinn said during a press conference at City Hall.

Rape is up nearly 5 percent citywide through the end of September and misdemeanor sex assaults are up more than 10 percent during the same period.

Quinn called on State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman for enforcement of the harshest penalties in sex crime cases and pledged to protect funding for the city's Sexual Assault Response Teams, which provide forensic exams and counseling services to sexual assault victims at hospitals. The teams are at risk of budget cuts as the city slashes spending across-the-board, she said.

Quinn also called for state legislation that would increase the penalty for committing multiple acts of public lewdness.

The crime is currently a Class B misdemeanor in the state, which means that suspects rarely — if ever — spend time in jail, said City Councilman Peter Vallone, chair of the council’s Public Safety committee.

Vallone said it was “ridiculous" that repeat offenders faced the same penalty whether they'd committed the crime one, twice or dozens of times.

“We’ve got to make it much easier to keep these predators off of our trains, off of our streets,” he said.

Quinn also called for legislation that would force Level-2 sex offenders to be photographed every year instead of once every three.

Officials said they hoped the efforts would send a message following a rash of assaults in city parks as well as neighborhoods such as northwest Queens, where Vallone said assaults, including crimes like groping, are “way up.”

“We’re not going to yield one piece of park land, not one blade of grass, not one street corner in the City of New York to sexual predators,” Quinn said.