Race to Fight Public Lewdness

February 18, 2018

 To the Editor:

Everyone who believes “sex crimes in progress” should ignite an immediate, swift response from Public Safety (PSD), mark this event on your calendar: Sunday Feb 18, 2:30 p.m., at 510 Main Street. You’re invited to help demonstrate how long their response should actually take. 


Back in September, a man (cover your kids’ eyes) whacked off in 540 Main Street, in front of a woman arriving home from work. She screamed, she cried, she called PSD, and she turned on her camera. She was petrified she’d be raped. All she could do was plea for help on her cell phone and pray for her safety. 


After what she describes as the longest seven minutes of her life, she says two officers finally approached, chatting as they strolled down the corridor without a shred of urgency. This crime was entered into the PSD stats as “Request for Assistance.” 


Approximately a month prior, the doorman from Westview called PSD to report a similar crime in progress in the building’s courtyard. It was recorded as “Trespass” by the Public Safety Department. The perpetrator was caught. His name was taken by the officers, but he bolted from the scene. No arrest has been made. 


Two cases of public lewdness took place around the prior Thanksgiving. Both occurred at Manhattan Park. Neither case was forwarded to me when I requested them through the Freedom of Information Act process. Two additional cases took place at the garden by the Octagon Building. In one occurrence, the perpetrator chased the victim around the gardens. Another incident happened behind 510 Main Street. Because of the public outcry to properly record these crimes, it is the only one listed as “Public Lewdness.” 


The behavior of PSD toward the September victim was demeaning and invalidating. When the victim expressed concern about whether the offender might have “stalked her,” she says a Public Safety Officer responded, “Don’t worry, it happens all the time.” The victim and I later spoke to PSD Chief Jack McManus about this conversation. He adamantly denied the validity of what the officer had said, despite, what we later learned: it happens all the time. 


In my presence, a PSD Lieutenant claimed the victim “refused” EMT and NYPD assistance. This claim was a total mischaracterization of her behavior. Another Lieutenant stated the victim had refused to cooperate with female officers, a claim that astounded and unnerved the victim. 


She was a sex crime victim in need of validation. What she feels she got in turn was ridicule, accusations, and lies. 


Unlike RIOC President Susan Rosenthal’s claim that Public Lewdness is a “violation,” it’s a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine. Public Lewdness is also considered by crime experts to be a precursor to rape. Today’s whacker could become tomorrow’s rapist.


It seems clear to me that both Rosenthal and McManus are suppressing crime statistics. In fact, she boasted about the low level of Island crime in the last edition of The WIRE, even in the face of the Inspector General’s current investigation of this issue. 


As a community, we need to show Chief McManus, RIOC, and the Inspector General:


1. The safety of the 14,000 men, women and children on Roosevelt Island is their responsibility – No excuses.


2. When PSD gets the next cry for help from a sex crime victim, they’re to run, not walk, to the scene. 


3. Having officers who cooperate with one another to discredit a victim discourages those in need from asking PSD for help and puts the safety of every person on the Island at risk. 


If you care about the alarming way PSD deals with sex crimes in our community, c’mon out in your running shoes on Sunday, Feb 18 at 2:30 p.m., to the breezeway beside 510 Main Street. 


Bring your posters. We’ll be recording how long it takes everyone to get from 510, where the responding officers received the call for help, to 540, the scene of the crime. My money’s on the fact that it won’t take anywhere close to 7 minutes! 


Joyce Short



Editor’s Note: The following response was submitted by RIOC.



The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and the Public Safety Department have devoted dozens of hours to the incidents and the allegations described in Ms. Short’s letter. In addition, RIOC staff, at all levels, has spent a substantial amount of time with the victim.


There are no fake statistics at the RIOC Public Safety Department, nor is there a pending Inspector General investigation.


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