About three-dozen residents filled Our Lady of Mount Caramel Church, taking the opportunity to question the precinct commanders directly, as well as bring other issues to their attention.
Many remain worried as the number of rapes reported to police in Greenpoint and Williamsburg rose last year. Rapes nearly tripled in 2011 in Williamsburg’s 90th Precinct: 23 rapes occurred last year compared to eight the previous year. And in Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct, attackers committed three rapes compared to one the year before.
“In the past we haven’t had that many problems, now more than ever there are a lot of problems around Withers Street,” said one resident, Tish Cianciotta,.
The sexual assault, which happened on New Year’s Day, has many residents worried its a sign of things to come.
“We don’t want any more rapists, we don’t want anyone else getting hurt,” Cianciotta said. “We’d like to see the neighborhood have a lot more security.”
Police say that on New Year's Day at approximately 4:20 a.m., a woman was walking on Maspeth Avenue when she was approached by a man who grabbed her and pulled her into a nearby parking garage.
According to police, the suspect pulled out an object that appeared to resemble a firearm and allegedly told the victim to remain quiet.
The suspect then sexually assaulted the victim and fled. He is described as 20 to 25 years old, approximately 5'8 and weighing 150 pounds with a thin build. Police say the suspect was wearing a grey, zip-up jacket with a hood and dark baseball hat.
On Facebook's North Brooklyn Community Group's page, Greenpoint residents were adamant about putting up fliers with the suspect's photo.
“It's kind of scary given that there is a homeless shelter right there that has always been a bit of an issue to me,” said Robin Hagert, a Greenpoint resident of 10 years.
The suspect has not yet been caught.
And in another incident, according to one witness, a woman was assaulted on Withers Street. She was not sexually assaulted but was beaten with a stick, causing her to get four stitches. A neighbor heard her screams and ran to help her as the suspect fled.
“We’re concerned because it’s not too far away,” Cianciotta said. “There are a lot of problems around Withers.”
The 90th Precinct Police Commander, Michael Kemper, urged residents to let the police know what is going on.
“You have to let us know,” Kemper said. “The community is our guided source of information. They guide us and steer us in the right direction.”
Both commanders of the precincts assured residents that they are in constant communication whenever any incidents occur. And Kemper stressed that his precinct keeps a close watch in the Williamsburg area late at night, particularly near bustling Bedford Avenue.
Yet some residents called for even more police presence.
“We need more police, and they have to be seen,” said one resident.
Lisa Bamonte, a Community Board 1 member, recalled the days when the beat cops used to walk around the neighborhood, putting residents at ease. “There was a lot of police presence, you felt comfortable, you felt a sense of security,” she said. “I hardly see that now especially down Withers Street.”
Kemper assured residents that cops regularly keep a lookout in the area, some in plain clothes.
Other residents expressed concern about the lack of security cameras and lights in the area. Two residents who live on Skillman and Maspeth avenues called for more lighting on their block.
District Leader Lincoln Restler urged residents who are landlords to place lights outside of their building, and urged those residents who are tenants to request that lights be placed outside.
Kemper and 94th Precinct Commander Terence Hurson asked residents to come out to the Precinct Community Council meetings held every month. The 90th Precinct holds its meeting on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at 30 Monterose Avenue. The 94th Precinct council meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Ascension, 122 Java Street.