NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police believe they finally caught the Upper East Side groper. After three months and at least a dozen incidents, a suspect is under arrest.
Jose Perez Hernandez, 18, left the Special Victims Unit overnight moments after being charged in connection with the series of gropings. Hernandez has been charged with burglary, sexual abuse and forcibly touching several women.
Police picked up Hernandez Tuesday morning at an apartment in Queens following a tip from a building superintendent on the Upper East Side. Investigators said the super recognized the suspect from a sketch.
Hernandez worked as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant on East 81st Street for the last six months. He was placed in a lineup and charged overnight in connection with three of the gropings.
The restaurant owner said the suspect had worked there for six months up until two weeks ago. He thought Hernandez resembled the suspect’s photo put out by police, but felt he didn’t have enough information to call police. Tips from the superintendent allowed police to trace the teen to a residence in Queens.
“Well that’s a relief. Given that I live in New York and I don’t want someone groping me,” resident Lindsay Spoler told CBS 2’s John Slattery.
For months, many women in the area were wary of being grabbed or fondled by the 4’11” man. Police said he was captured on surveillance camera, and is responsible for several incidents dating back to May.
Police said the suspect grabbed women from behind, oftentimes lifting a skirt. All the women approached were in their 20s and early 30s.
The gropings forced many in the neighborhood to change their routines.
“We usually go out at night for a walk after dinner and I just stopped. I didn’t want to deal with being paranoid looking behind my back or over my shoulder,” resident Jean Marie told CBS 2’s Kendis Gibson.
In the latest incident last Friday, a 28-year-old woman told police she was walking on a path in Central Park when she was approached by the suspect. Investigators said she fought back, kicking, punching and poking him in the eye.
If convicted, what’s the appropriate punishment in this case? Has the groping spree changed your behavior? Sound off in our comments section.