Police Fear The Man They Are Looking For Is Getting More Violent With Each Attack; Young Women In Astoria Put On Notice

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A manhunt was underway Thursday for a suspect in a rash of armed robberies in Queens.

Police say the man demands cash after threatening women with a machete, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

“I don’t know if I’m safe anymore,” Astoria resident Maicia Nascimento said.

After hearing police say the suspect, a thin, black male in his 20s, attacked and robbed at least five women in the borough over the past two weeks, many Astoria residents are on edge.

“Very scared. I’m very surprised,” Nascimento said.

The latest of five incidents happened Sunday on 29th Street near 35th Avenue. The suspect attacked a 28-year-old from behind, put her in a chokehold, stole her purse and ran off.

“Now I’m going to talk to my niece and my sister and my neighbors to be careful around here,” Nascimento said. “I’m just hoping the police catch him.”

The NYPD released surveillance video as officers search for the suspect who is armed with a machete.

Investigators say his pattern is to flash the weapon, demand cash and run off.

The suspect appears to be targeting women in their 20s between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.

Police fear he is becoming more violent with each attack, a concern shared by community members. One woman was too afraid to show her face as she spoke to CBS2’s DeAngelis.

“I have an alarm in the house. I lock the door,” the woman said. “I’m very surprised because Astoria was safe. We never had anything like this, never here.”

One of the earlier attacks happened at the corner of 43rd Street and 31st Avenue. Police said a 21-year-old was punched in the back of her head and choked by the suspect. He then ran off with her wallet.

“That’s very scary. I’m not gonna stop myself from living my life just because something like this happened. I’m gonna be more aware,” said Ronit Raier, who lives nearby.

“The more the word gets out, the more that we can keep our eyes open and help. That’s what we gotta do,” added Connecticut resident Steve Novosad, who said he spends a lot of time in Astoria.

The suspect is said to be around 6-foot tall and was last seen wearing red sneakers and what appeared to be an “I Love New York” shirt. Police said he was also wearing a surgical mask during the latest attack.

Some of the victims have been roughed-up during their ordeals. Police said one was treated at the hospital for cuts and scrapes.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.