Concerned Greenpoint residents recently took to the social media app Nextdoor to swap stories about a local man, Christopher Boissard, who has been accused of harassing and assaulting various members of the community. Boissard is a 29-year-old Deaf man who has previously spent time in Rikers Island for a 2017 case of felony sex abuse. Though he was away from the neighborhood for some time, he appears to be back in his native Greenpoint.
Boissard, who usually sticks close to the more northern part of the neighborhood off Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street and above Greenpoint Avenue, has multiple assault allegations against him. He has been arrested multiple times for groping, harassment, and violating orders of protection against victims. According to DNAInfo, he attacked and stalked a local mom in the winter of 2017, leading to his arrest on charges of violation of the active order protection that the woman had been awarded against Boissard (the article also claims he has been arrested more than 30 times).
These attacks have even extended to his own family members. “[I]n 2014, Boissard pleaded guilty to criminal contempt and third-degree assault charges stemming from a 2012 attack on his father,” DNAInfo states.
Within the past few weeks, Boissard has been accused of randomly punching a woman in the face in a bodega on the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Freeman Street. According to a Nextdoor user, the victim was in the bodega when all of a sudden “a man approached her without saying anything and punched her in the face” after which Boissard allegedly ran away. He was chased by the woman’s boyfriend, though “he escaped inside his apartment.”
“They called the police and when they arrived and after relating the story to them, the police said that they knew the man and he had done this at least 2 other times against different women,” the account continues, “They also mentioned that he had been diagnosed with a mental condition, and because of that and the fact that he ran to his apartment, they couldn’t do anything about it.”
In an email to Greenpointers, a local corroborates the seeming inaction on the part of the NYPD. “One person reported today a few hours ago seeing him bothering a woman on the corner of Eagle and Franklin, but when the witness called the precinct replied they ‘can’t do third party complaints.’” Other neighbor accounts claim that Boissard allegedly assaulted a postal worker as well. Someone who lives on Eagle Street says they can frequently hear Boissard screaming at all hours of the day. Others have seen him drinking in public and hanging around Transmitter Park where he apparently is not allowed due to his status as a sex offender.
In a statement to Greenpointers, Captain Kathleen Fahey of the 94th Precinct says: “The 94 Precinct is well aware of Mr. Boissard and the recent changes to the previously issued Order of Protection. The 94 Precinct has been working closely with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, elected officials and concerned community members in order to ensure the safety of Greenpoint and to uphold the constitutional rights of all. We encourage everyone to promptly report criminal incidents directly to the NYPD, so that a thorough and complete investigation can be conducted.”
It is important to note that multiple parties have mentioned Boissard’s mental health issues, and his status as a Deaf person can affect his ability to communicate. Furthermore, at some point in his incarceration, Boissard’s lawyer claims that he did not have access to a sign language interpreter. It is also unsurprising that Boissard’s experience being incarcerated in Rikers would not have prompted a change in behavior, considering the violent and inhumane conditions that inmates face there usually only begets more violence.
“According to Prof. Deborah Koetzle of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 68 percent of those released from U.S. prisons are rearrested within three years. On Rikers, the recidivism problem is even worse: close to half return to jail within a year” says a 2019 article from the New York Times.
As the New York City Council recently voted to shut down Rikers Island by 2026, New Yorkers must consider community alternatives to incarceration. This can take many forms. In light of recent anti-Asian attacks, candidate for Manhattan Borough President Lindsey Boylan has called for New Yorkers to receive “bystander training” to empower folks to take action against racist violence. The same concept applies to gender-based violence and harassment as well. The national organization Hollaback! offers bystander training through a program called Step Up, which has earned the support of the NYC Commission on Gender Equity and the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. For a more local organization, People’s School of Conflict, a community initiative in partnership with North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, facilitates workshops on de-escalation strategies in McCarren Park and their Instagram page features great resources and tips to help keep you and your neighbors safe while minimizing contact with the police.
There also appears to be more behind the scenes work concerning Boissard’s case that is not publicly available information. While some of this concerns Boissard’s right to privacy, many community members would obviously like to know what steps local institutions are taking to keep us safe.
Though Boissard’s case might not require a carceral approach, the NYPD could be more transparent about informing the community about what kinds of resources are available to people dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues. One Nextdoor account mentioned calling 311 on Boissard instead, but said that “they were of little help.” 311 encompasses so many resources that while it might be a more humane option than 911, it simply cannot operate at the scale that the city needs in addressing its myriad concerns. The NYC 311 website also states to call 911 in cases of harassment.
If currently neither 911 or 311 can effectively address our community’s needs, where does that leave us? This past November, Mayor de Blasio announced the creation of a pilot program of new teams staffed by EMS health workers and mental health professionals who will be dispatched to respond to mental health crises in place of police officers. However, police officers will still be involved as a backup option “in cases where a subject has a weapon or is threatening violence” reports CNN. CNN also cites “more than 170,000 mental health calls to the city’s 911 call center [in 2019.]”
Police involvement in mental health situations often turns a situation deadly. Even with recent developments in training NYPD officers in de-escalation tactics, “at least 17 New Yorkers with mental health issues have been killed or critically injured by police” in the five years since the trainings began, says local group Correct Crisis Intervention Today – NYC. The pilot program announced by the de Blasio administration would still operate through 911, though some activists call for the creation of a standalone number. As a pilot program, implementation of these teams commenced just this past February, and it is not yet available to all precincts, but it’s a promising concept that hopefully one day soon we will see in North Brooklyn.
While community awareness of serial abusers is a good thing, vigilantism is not an effective strategy. If you feel safe enough to intervene when you see someone being harassed, that can go a long way in making neighbors feel safe. However, simply calling the cops on Boissard because you happen to see him on the street or ganging up on him with a group of your friends likely won’t end well for anyone. Boissard’s actions are unacceptable, and he clearly needs help that he is not getting. We can hold both things true and keep in contact with local authorities and elected officials to pressure them to keep us safe.
If you have more information about Boissard, you’re encouraged to call NYPD Officer David Molina at 718-383-5298.