Last Friday around 10 p.m., a 52-year-old woman was exiting the Rego Park subway station at 63rd Drive and Queens Boulevard when a young man in his 20s started flirting with her.
He introduced himself as Junior and told the victim he liked her shoes, asked if she was a model and for her phone number. When she refused, he pursued her and she walked into the Rite Aid drug store across the street in hopes he’d leave her alone.
Junior followed the woman into the store and continued harassing her and reportedly cornered her in the back of the store and kissed her.
After he left and the victim assumed the coast was clear, she left the pharmacy, denying the cashier’s offer to call the police, and continued walking to Saunders Street.
It was at 63-45 Saunders St., in front of an apartment complex, that the woman felt two hands grab her and push her down a small flight of stairs.
After looking up, the victim noticed it was Junior who had shoved her and after a struggle, she blacked out.
Junior proceeded to rape and rob her, leaving her laying on the concrete for a passerby to find her.
“It’s scary,” Alyssa Hernandez, 24, said on her way into the same subway station. “I mean, it wasn’t even that late at night and to think that there was no one around to stop it or to make sure she was safe is unsettling. I’m not going to not use the subway because of it, but I’ll definitely be looking over my shoulder for the next few weeks.”
As the recent rape happened in a populated area with below average crime rates, some residents are voicing concern over their safety but say they don’t plan on letting the suspect, who is still at large, scare them into staying at home.
“This area always seems so safe,” Wendell Goulde said. “There’s always people around, coming in and out of the station and going to the restaurants around here. I can’t imagine being a woman walking around here at night after that happened though.”
Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, assures residents that officers are doing all they can to catch the suspect.
“What happened that night was awful,” Chain said. “It was disgusting and unfortunate, but I think they will catch this guy.”
The Police Department has already placed a mobile command center at the entrance to the subway station.
“It’s nice seeing that they have something set up,” local resident Gloria Baptiste said.
“This is a safe neighborhood,” Chain said. “I would argue it is one of the safest in the city, but does crime happen? Yes but we need everyone to be cautious and aware of their surroundings.”
Chain added that the police aren’t the only people who can deter crime.
“Many of the incidents that happen here are things that could have been prevented,” she said. “People leave their car doors unlocked with their pocketbook inside or they leave their windows open when they leave the house. This incident, unfortunately, was a tragedy but it also can show us that while we are in a safe area, we always need to be aware and on the lookout.”
Chain and 112th Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Thomas Conforti regularly post on the community council’s Facebook page and often provide safety tips.
“We need people to know that there are threats and stay informed,” Chain said. “Will there be incidents that happen? Yes, but we can do our best to ensure they happen as few and far between as possible.”
Junior, who is described as a black man who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall with a mustache, is still at large. The NYPD is seeking the assistance of the public in fully identifying the suspect.
Police have released a surveillance video of the suspect entering the Rite Aid store and according to CBS News, cameras posted at the apartment building may have recorded the victim being attacked.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477).The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.