Ibrahima Ragis’ picture and description have been in the media, handed out at subway stations and taped up on walls throughout Forest Hills.
They also have been etched into the minds of every officer on patrol in the NYPD’s 112th Precinct as they continue to search for the suspect in three armed attacks on women in Forest Hills between May 19 and June 3, two of which resulted in sexual assaults.
“The good news is that he hasn’t struck since June 3,” said Deputy Inspector Christopher Tamola, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct.
“The bad news,” Tamola said, “is that we don’t have him yet.”
Tamola spoke at the June 20 meeting of the precinct’s Community Council, talking about his most high-profile case amidst the regular discussion of crime statistics and common-sense prevention tips.
Police said Ragis, 20, is a black male, 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds and has black hair.
On May 19, a 19-year-old woman was entering her home at about 3:30 a.m. when a man armed with a knife pulled her into a walkway and sexually abused her before taking her money and cell phone.
A 17-year-old woman was attacked outside her house at 3 a.m. on May 28. Police said a man armed with a knife put his hand over her mouth, dragged her into an alley and raped her. She was treated at a local hospital and released.
On June 3, a 22-year-old woman was accosted at 2:37 a.m. as she entered her home. She handed over personal property before the man was seen by a witness and fled.
The precise addresses of the incidents are not being released.
Tamola said officers actually got close enough to chase him and identify him that night, and that he dropped personal property during the pursuit that allegedly sealed his identification as a suspect.
Tamola also said they thought they had a sure arrest within the last two weeks.
“We thought if this wasn’t him, it had to be his twin brother,” the deputy inspector said. “It took fingerprints to prove he wasn’t the guy ... We hope he tries to jump a turnstile or something and we catch him.”
In other news, Tamola said several crime statistics in the precinct were trending positive.
Rapes for the year to date are down to four from seven up to this week a year ago, while robberies are down slightly, from 51 to 48, and burglaries down from 64 to 53.
But felony assaults are up significantly, from 24 a year ago to 45, and serious crimes overall up from 384 to 396 for the year.
He said grand larcenies, up from 203 to 208, are largely being driven by thieves continuing to target cell phones, iPods, iPads and other small personal electronic devices. Tamola and Officer Zina Vailes, the 112th’s crime prevention officer, said people should exercise caution when using the devices in public, especially on the subway, where thieves look for someone who is not paying attention to his or her surroundings, especially when sitting near the train’s doors.
“If people are more careful with those and we get one fewer theft of electronics a week, that’s 52 fewer crimes in the precinct for the year,” Tamola said.
Vailes agreed that the devices often are targets of opportunity.
“One guy recently was ordering coffee — I won’t say where but they sell really expensive cups of coffee — and put his cell phone down on the counter to get some sugar,” she said. “When he got back, the phone was gone.”
They said it is wise to assume that in public someone is always looking for an opportunity to steal valuables.
“They look like us,” Vailes said. And Tamola said they are always watching.
“It’s what they do for a living,” he said. “These are professional thieves.”
Vailes said they have had recent reports of purses and wallets being taken during church services when left unattended in pews; and even jewelry taken from a woman’s coat pocket in a medical office when she had to remove all metal in order to undergo a medical procedure.
Tamola said some thieves will enter professional buildings like large medical offices and go from office to office.
“They tell the employees that they’re there to drive so-and-so,” he said. “The employees are used to that. And these guys are looking to steal anything that’s not bolted down.”
He also said unlocked windows and doors continue to be be a contributing factor to a large number of home and car burglaries.
“It’s an oldie but a goody,” Tamola said. “We get two or three reports like that a week.”
He and Vailes said homeowners can get careless after opening up windows and rear doors in the summer.
“They look for that,” Vailes said. “And it’s preventable.