By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The New York Police Department (NYPD) reported during a media briefing that although overall crime in the city is down, rape is up, specifically in Queens.
The 110th Precinct – which covers Elmhurst and Corona – has seen a 257.1 percent increase in rape compared to this time last year. In 2017, there were only seven reported rapes from January through June within the precinct. However, there have already been 25 reported rapes from January through June of this year.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill attributes this uptick to the NYPD’s Special Victim’s Unit’s latest campaign “The Call is Yours,” which was created to encourage sexual-assault survivors to come forward.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the advocacy groups to make sure that people that survived sexual assault feel comfortable coming to police to report those crimes,” said O’Neill. “The increase [in reported rape] is a result of more reporting. As a result of our outreach, more people are coming forward. Survivors aren’t staying quiet anymore.”
During the media briefing, NYPD Chief of Department Terrance Monahan said although rape is up, the NYPD isn’t looking to get the numbers down.
“Rape has always been an underreported crime,” said Monahan. “We’ve been pushing people to come out and report it, to get this information and to know that our special victims’ squad is going to do investigations and make the arrests. We encourage people to come out and make these reports so when it goes up; it’s actually a good thing because more people are coming forward, especially in domestic violence cases.”
“The Call is Yours” campaign is located throughout the city in both English and Spanish in subway cars, buses, in city taxis, on billboards and reads: “Reporting a sexual assault to the NYPD could bring the perpetrator to justice, prevent future assaults and connects you with important resources and services.”
Sonia Chaves, a 42-year-old Elmhurst resident who only speaks Spanish, said that she saw the sign on the E train one day on her way home from work. Chaves said that she shared the information with her neighbor, a domestic violence victim, and although she doesn’t know if her neighbor called the Special Victims Unit, it made her feel good to know that she was able to pass on that information.
“This initiative has been built off of our ‘Your City, Your Call,’ which is our Crime Stoppers initiative [and] has worked quite well for us,” said recently retired Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. “We want everybody to know we’re going to investigate all complaints. I don’t want anyone out there to think about the statute of limitations. It’s not relevant. We will determine that as we go forward.”
The campaign, which launched in April, immediately led to an increase in victims’ speaking out.
In May, there were 181 reported rapes in the city, compared to May 2017’s 121 reported rapes. Of the 181 rapes, 146 took place in 2018, while 18 occurred in 2017 and 12 took place five years ago, the NYPD said. In addition, the victims did not know their rapists in only 6 percent of the incidents.
“The trend continues in terms of reporting,” said O’Neill. “More people are coming forward to report rapes happening this year and previous years.”
O’Neill said that the NYPD is encouraging anyone who knows someone who has been sexually assaulted to call (212) 267-7273, which is the department’s special victims 24-hour hotline. He
also noted that the NYPD is working to make the special victims department “bigger and better.”
“We put additional resources into the special victims unit,” said O’Neill. “We talked about bringing in 20 additional investigators, 14 for cold cases.”
O’Neill said the department is in the process of finishing up its review of the special victims unit to see if additional personnel are needed. The commissioner’s announcement followed the Department of Investigations’ (DOI) recently published report, which showed that the Special Victims Division had a staffing shortage that was allegedly ignored by the NYPD and resulted in only 67 detectives’ taking on 5,661 cases in 2017.
With the reported number of rapes on the rise, O’Neill said that the department is determined to work on those cases and make arrests.
Arrests for rape are up more than 37 percent in the city so far this year.
“While crime is at a record low in New York City, there is still more work to do to ensure that every New Yorker feels safe in their neighborhood,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.