The neighborhood of Bushwick was shocked by the multiple attacks on women that occurred in December 2012. “He grabs the women in the dark from behind and slams them against a building wall, covering their mouths so they can’t scream. He has attacked several women on Knickerbocker Ave., on White St, Bushwick Ave, & Moore St (near Roberta’s),” read an email we received, which quickly became viral on Facebook and in the windows of Bushwick establishments. The sad narrative instigated an assumption that we have a serial rapist in Bushwick who needs to be put behind the bars asap. Our readers have constantly asked what is going on.
We have called the 83rd Precinct of NYPD multiple times. Earlier in January, an officer refused to confirm one individual suspect, and told us that Bushwick is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the City, and everybody should always be careful. He recommended never walking alone, especially late at night, women and men alike. A very basic google search, in addition to the numerous comments under our original post, shows that thinking that Bushwick has only one serial rapist would be optimistic. Dangerous streets are the reality in Bushwick.
NYPD further referred us to the crime statistics they publish weekly on their website. Currently available stats for the week of January 7 – January 13, 2012 in the 83rd Precinct list: 2 rapes, 1 misdemeanor sex assault and 8 misdemeanor assaults. However, following the scandal at 81st Precinct in March 2012, many believe that NYPD stats are underreported; additionally we have to take into account that many of the assaults don’t get reported at all. “I met with top officers of the 83rd, 90th & 94th precincts. They can’t serve you if no one is reporting these incidents that have been going on in Bushwick and Williamsburg area. They can’t deploy their resources if they don’t know what’s happening. I have repeatedly encouraged people to report their incidents to the police. People, trust me there is a big police presence in these areas; 83rd precinct has 30 officers on foot from Starr St. and up Wyckoff Ave and across to Knickerbocker Ave,” writes Jay Ruiz, the founder and the president of Brooklyn Bike Patrol on their Facebook page encouraging victims to report the attacks.
Brooklyn Bike Patrol is a volunteer organization “highly committed to the safety of women in Brooklyn,” as Jay told us on the phone. You can call them at 718-744-7592 in the late evening hours and a biker will escort you home.
On January 18, 2013, NY Post released a video report on the attacks on women in Bushwick. Unfortunately, the Post chose to interview only white looking women (not actual victims, only women who “heard” about the attacks), sparking a reaction on the Internet that these attacks are some sort of a racially motivated response to the recent gentrification of the neighborhood. However, comparing the same statistics over the years shows that safety has been a consistent problem in the area. According to statistics published by the NYPD’s 83rd Precinct, there were 39 reported rapes in 2012. In 1990, there were more than twice as many - the precinct reported 80 rapes. Unfortunately, this situation is a problem for all the women in the area because they are especially vulnerable targets.
What can we do to be safer in Bushwick today? Follow the recommendations of NYPD and Brooklyn Bike Patrol. Don’t walk alone after dark and use common sense when it comes to especially dangerous areas such as the borders of the precincts (e.g. Broadway, according to the officer from the 83 Precinct that we talked to). If you’re out late at night, call for the assistance of Brooklyn Bike Patrol at (718) 744-7592, or simply take a cab (Bushwick Car Service at (718) 497-7148 or Fenix Car Service at (718) 821-2121). Don’t walk wearing headphones or a hood. Be present, on alert and aware of your surroundings. Always be careful – but don’t live in fear. Don’t be a victim, take a self-defense course. According to the stats, women who physically fight back have 86% higher chance of avoiding rape. City Wing Tsun has a long tradition of self-defense courses for women, and will help you to develop confidence. Additionally, the organization is planning to organize these courses also in Bushwick.
Be courageous and speak up! Insist on fair treatment from the police and never accept any underreporting. Call mass media if you need to! Support organizations that actively help the safety in the streets. If you are a good biker without a criminal record, consider becoming a member of Brooklyn Bike Patrol. Did you know that there are only 5 of them? Even a seemingly small action can make a big difference….