On a recent afternoon in June, Jane was walking home from the G train when an arm reached out and grabbed her breast in front of Mr. Berry on Manhattan Avenue. It belonged to one of several loud men in their 20s who were standing in a group on the sidewalk.
Enraged, Jane called 911 and started following and filming them as one of the men mooned her. While she waited for police to arrive, the men jeered at her from inside the Triangolo Pizza. Maddeningly, their smugness was validated when police arrived to take a report. They took Jane’s ID but none of theirs—she couldn’t confidently identify who had touched her, so the police told her they technically couldn’t do anything.
“I’m glad they responded quickly but I’m so frustrated nothing else could be done,” she said in an email to Greenpointers following the incident. “I’ve lived in Greenpoint for 8 years and I’ve never felt unsafe and never had any problems like this before. It makes me a little sad that I can’t say that anymore because of a group of idiots.”
Jane had reached out to us in a last-ditch effort because she felt as though she had no other recourse. Of course, that’s not exactly news—sexual assault is notoriously difficult to adequately punish, especially when the victim can’t say for a fact who it was.
But what happens when you successfully apprehend the perp?
Not much, as anyone who follows these types of things would probably tell you.
Just a couple days after Jane emailed us, we got a tip about another case of sexual assault in Greenpoint.
On a recent Friday afternoon in broad daylight, a woman was walking with her boyfriend outside the C-Town on Manhattan Avenue when a man lunged toward her and grabbed her breasts. According to the boyfriend, who wishes to remain anonymous, the man then lunged at another woman on the street as the boyfriend pushed him away.
Punches were thrown between the two, and bystanders called the cops. When the police arrived, the aggressor screamed that he was going to “get you and those fucking Asian bitches.”
Though the cops did arrest both men in an initial bout of confusion, the police voided the arrest report for the boyfriend after placing him in handcuffs for more than an hour. However, the groper didn’t spend much more time in custody. He was released the next day.
When the boyfriend called the 94th Precinct two days later to ask whether the man was still being held, he was told the groper was released less than 24 hours after the arrest. When he asked why the victims weren’t notified of this, one cop allegedly laughed and said, “Honestly, I’ve seen armed robbers get released the next day. This is New York. It’s just how it’s done.”
“Admittedly, this was a comparatively minor incident, but for anyone looking to reduce and dismiss what happened, please consider the audacity of someone trying to molest two strangers going about their own business on a busy street in daylight and that that man then proceeded to get angry about being stopped, and later became threatening (and unnecessarily bringing up race). Consider what letting something like that go means,” wrote the second victim in an Instagram post immediately following the incident.
The NYPD has yet to respond to a request for comment regarding these details, but the group is now in the process of meeting with the Assistant District Attorney after the ADA filed three orders of protection on their behalf. There’s a court date set for next month, though they’ve had no further communication with the 94th.
The ADA has been helpful, says the victim’s boyfriend, but Jane didn’t take any further steps aside from telling a few local friends about the incident. “My interaction with the police left me feeling pretty frustrated and helpless,” she said. “I can see now why people wouldn’t call the police when something happens. If the details are murky or it can’t be proven on the spot that something illegal happened, what’s the point?”
However, a neighbor did attempt to come to her aid by filming the group of men on his phone, yelling at them, and attempting to intervene with the police.
Is it possible that community can succeed where law enforcement fails? Having a network to drawn on—as well as various local resources—might be the biggest difference between being assaulted in Midtown and being assaulted in your own backyard.
One Greenpointer’s advice went something like this: try showing the video to some older folks at the nearest corner store, restaurant, or church. The offending youths belong to a pretty tightknit community in Greenpoint, and there’s a good chance one of their elders will not only recognize them, but give them a good dressing down.
Alternatively, the North Brooklyn Community Facebook group is a very active resource for community members with questions or information to share with neighbors. Posting a video or picture there could help quickly identify suspects, as well as crowdsource helpful tips and advice.
In that vein, it might be more appropriate to end this article not with a statement, but with a question: what advice would you offer to someone who’s left high and dry by the officials?