Reporting John Metaxas
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The hunt continued Monday for a predator suspected of groping women in a posh Manhattan neighborhood.
Police said the same man has attacked at least seven women on the Upper East Side, reports CBS 2’s John Metaxas.
“I’m not going out at night, simple as that,” UES resident Veronica Ramirez said. “Or I go out with friends.”
It’s become topic number one on Upper East Side streets, with women on their guard after a string of groping attacks over the last several months. The attacker grabs the women in their private parts.
“I am worried, obviously,” Ramirez said. “It’s a problem for the city.”
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Police said they’re convinced that all of the attacks were done by one man.
“We believe this is part of a pattern,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Heather Kirkpatrick told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez that she almost became a victim as she walked home early Sunday morning.
“As soon as I got in my own apartment, I was very scared,” she said. “I was like that, could have been very, very bad.”
Kirkpatrick said she was getting off the “6″ train when an unassuming man approached her, asking for directions.
“I’m like, ‘there you go,’ and he started walking in that direction,” she said. “He wasn’t intimidating at all to me, so I didn’t really think anything of it.”
Kirkpatrick quickly made her way to her sixth-floor walkup just over a block away, and swung open the first door. Then she unlocked the second door, not waiting for it to close and lock behind her, before running upstairs.
“When I was on my first landing, the first floor, I started hearing footsteps,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said the footsteps continued all the way to the sixth floor.
“I turned around and saw him right there, and I just said, ‘what are you doing,’ like really aggressively,” she said. “He just paused for a second and just took off.”
Kirkpatrick was sickened when she realized the gap-toothed man, just under five feet tall and 120 pounds, matched the police description of the serial groper terrorizing the Upper East Side.
“He’s been active for so long that I can’t believe that he’s just continuing to get away with it,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said she’ll be taking cabs and carrying pepper spray at night, and will make sure her apartment door closes behind her. She warned women to always be on guard.
“I consider myself a pretty aware person who’s pretty interested in my own safety, and you can still have things happen,” she said.
Police released a sketch of the man believed to be responsible for the attacks, which began in January, and they’re asking for the public’s help in finding him.
The suspect is described as 25 to 30 years old, about 4-foot-11 and 120 pounds with black hair. He was last seen wearing a black turtleneck, a zipped sweatshirt and jeans.
“I live in this neighborhood, and this is the seventh time I’ve heard about this groper,” resident Greg Mullin said. “He’s going to get progressively worse…I’d like to catch him myself.”
Police said the attacks have followed a pattern. The man follows women to their doorways, and as they pause to open them, he touches them and then runs off.
All of the attacks have occurred at night or in the early morning hours, with the latest coming Saturday at 88th Street and First Avenue.
“I will definitely be on the lookout,” resident Cindi Frankel said. “I’m out at all hours, as well as my female friends – working, commuting.”
Upper East Side resident Melissa Ouari, though, said she never goes out alone.
“Typically I feel very safe,” she said. “Usually I have my big, black dog with me, and he barks, and he’s very protective.”
The victims of the serial groper have all been between the ages of 25 and 31 years old. Until the groper is caught, authorities are advising women to avoid walking the streets alone.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
If caught and convicted, what would the appropriate punishment be in this case? Is this guy sleazy, dangerous or both? Sound off in our comments section below…