CLICK HERE TO REPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION (Provide as much information as possible: full names, descriptions, dates, times, activity, witnesses, etc.)

Telephone: 347-632-9775

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rape Goes Undetected and Officers Are Disciplined

The New York Times by AL BAKER and MANNY FERNANDEZ - March 15, 2008

Two rookie police officers have been disciplined for lying about making rounds in a housing project in Brooklyn where a 30-year-old woman was raped in a stairwell last week, the police said on Friday.

Police video cameras in the building, 375 Blake Avenue in the Van Dyke Houses in Brownsville, captured parts of the 1:30 a.m. attack: a man following the victim on and off an elevator and forcing her up a stairwell to a 14th-floor landing. “He grabbed me from behind and displayed a knife,” the victim, who requested anonymity because of the nature of the attack, said in an interview.

She struggled and was cut, she said, and at one point the man said: “I will kill you if you don’t stop screaming, if you don’t stop fighting.” He dragged her to a stairway landing between the top floor and the roof and raped her, she said. But police cameras did not capture the rape itself, and police officials said they did not know if any of the videotape fragments showing the woman and the attacker turned up on the monitors that are continuously watched by officers at the complex. On Friday afternoon, there was a heavy police presence at the complex, one of the biggest in Brooklyn, with 4,275 residents living in 22 buildings. A nearby location, known as Van Dyke II, houses 130 elderly people.

The victim, the mother of a 10-year-old, said she was returning from her job at a homeless shelter on March 6 when a man she recognized from the neighborhood trailed her from a local subway stop to the red brick building where she lives.

He got on the elevator with her, appeared to be using his cellphone and then grabbed her as she took a step to exit the elevator, she said. After the attack, he ran down the stairwell, about 30 minutes after he was seen entering, the police said.

The woman, who was also robbed, said she faulted the police for not being there “at the time you really need them,” and criticized the shoddy upkeep of the building, saying that the front door was broken and that anyone could walk in or out. She said she wanted to see more security at the complex. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said. “I know how dangerous it is out here.”

Howard Marder, a spokesman for the New York City Housing Authority, said he did not know the specific condition of the building’s door, but said that the staff worked constantly to maintain doors and tried to fix problems as soon as they learned of them.

In investigating the rape, detectives from the housing bureau spoke to two officers who said they were doing “vertical patrols,” walking up and down the stairwells of the building, at the time of the attack and had marked it in their memo books. But investigators who reviewed the videotaped images found no evidence of the officers’ being there.

As a result, the officers, whose names were not released, were placed on modified assignment on Thursday and stripped of their guns and badges, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. The investigation of the police officers was reported on Friday in The Daily News.

There are about 220 cameras in the complex, focused on such areas as lobbies, entrances and exits, rooftops and the inside of elevators. The cameras continually record what they are trained on and feed images to 30 monitors watched by officers in a special room. Each monitor is fed by several cameras, and the images change every 7 seconds. If an officer sees something, he can freeze the monitor so that it stays with one camera image. Otherwise, it takes about 3 minutes 40 seconds for a monitor to cycle through all the cameras that feed it.

The camera images are recorded, regardless of whether they show up on the monitor. But Mr. Browne said there was no way to determine whether fragments of the tape that showed the attacker and his victim together were transmitted into the monitor room. The two police officers and the lieutenant who were working in that room on March 6 said they did not see anything of the episode.“They said they had not seen any evidence of an attack during that period, when they were on duty, on the monitors they were looking at,” Mr. Browne said. Most of what was recorded of the victim and her attacker was innocuous.

At one point, as the victim and the man were in the top-floor landing where the attack occurred, the camera shows a man’s hand on the wall and nothing else; at another point, it shows the man’s back, but the woman is out of view. In fact, so little of the man is seen in the video that the police, rather than releasing images of the suspect, disseminated a sketch of him to find leads.

Residents at the Van Dyke Houses, a vigorously monitored housing project, have a complicated relationship with the cameras. Some see them as necessary crime-fighting tools, while others said they have wondered if the cameras, both inside and outside the buildings, are always on and being monitored. “They say they’re working,” said Nellie Thomas, 60, who lives at 375 Blake Avenue. “I don’t know.”

Jose Rivera, 54, who lives in another building at the complex, said he doubted that the cameras on the elevators always worked. If they did, he said, the authorities would be able to catch the people who spread graffiti or who damage or urinate in them.

Still, said Mr. Marder of the housing authority, the cameras have served their purpose. “We are constantly getting requests from resident leaders and elected officials throughout the city to increase video surveillance because of its effectiveness in reducing crime.

No comments: