Brooklyn College sophomore James Thomas was at his family’s house on Long Island over the weekend when he learned that a woman was raped in the basement alley of the Glenwood Road apartment building where he dorms.
“When I saw the picture, I thought, I walk by there,” the 19-year-old said, who lives on the third floor of the building. “It’s eye-opening. I have friends who are girls and they live in this building. It could have happened to anyone of them.”
Police said a 22-year-old woman on her way to work near Brooklyn College was grabbed and raped by a young man with a Yankees’ cap and grey jacket around 9:25 a.m. Saturday. According to media reports, he dragged her from East 27th Street and Glenwood Road to a nearby building alley where he raped her and took her cell phone so she couldn’t call for help.
Thomas said that the building’s management immediately tightened security by installing a brand new gate leading up to the alley, as well as extra cameras. Signs were posted discouraging non-residents from entering. Two days after the rape, police patrolled the area every 45 minutes to for signs of the perpetrator, who has still not been caught.
The incident has rattled students and neighbors who live nearby, why say they are now taking precautions and thinking twice about where they’re headed and when. Donald A. Wenz, of the Office of Campus Security and Public Safety at Brooklyn College, sent out a college-wide security advisory telling students to be alert of their surroundings, to travel in pairs or groups when walking to or from campus, and to use the campus shuttle bus whenever they can.
Denise Villaneuva, a Brooklyn College freshman, said she now makes sure her cell phone and jewelry aren’t visible. She added that the news scared her parents and led her to have doubts about transferring to a school so far from home in Queens.
“What made it worse is that I’m a transfer student,” said the 21-year-old, who has an hour-long commute to get to Brooklyn College. “I’m supposed to be motivated to come here.”
Farhana Patwary, another Brooklyn College student, said in past semesters, she was on campus on early weekend mornings for classes. Her father would often express his concern at how deserted the area looked but she said she always assured him, saying, “Nothing’s going to happen.” She was surprised to learn of the rape happening so near to the college and in broad daylight.
“You wouldn’t think something like this could happen so early,” she said.
For her own protection, Patwary is avoiding the surrounding streets, instead going out of her way to get from one college building to the next by walking through the campus. The 22-year-old and her friends are also more cautious traveling alone, especially after club events that end late in the evening.
“Now we’re taking more precautions like always staying in groups like the email from security said,” said Patwary.
Jessica and Kawana, two co-workers who did not disclose their last names., said they were unaware of the rape that had taken place so close to the bank they work at on Flatbush Ave.
“That’s crazy,” 25-year-old Jessica said, adding that she never heard of someone getting raped in the area. “It’s in the day – people should have heard [the woman]”
Jessica said she would start to carry pepper spray to defend herself because she often parked her car near Glenwood Road.
“They have to kill me,” she said. “I’m not going to go down without a fight.”
Kawana emphasized that the most important precaution one could take was to always be aware of your surroundings and on the look out for someone suspicious. She lamented that many people don’t do this.
“People are looking down on their phones, people are listening to music with their headphones on – they don’t look to the left or right to see who’s next to them,” she said.
A crossing guard for PS 315, who called herself “Shanny” because she claimed she was not authorized by the NYPD to disclose her name, said kids were especially guilty of being neglectful of their surroundings because they paid more attention to their phones.
As for herself, other than being observant of her environment, Shanny said she isn’t taking any special measures to stay safe because she believes Jesus is protecting her.
“I always pray before I leave my house ’cause you never know,” she said nonchalantly.