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New York police step up hunt in Brooklyn for serial groper

October 12, 2011 |  6:56 am

SuspectThe New York Police Department is stepping up an investigation into a pattern of sexual assaults that have shaken women across several Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Since March, more than a dozen women have been attacked; one was raped, and the rest were groped -- sometimes brutally.

On Tuesday night, police arrested a suspect based on a description by a woman who was assaulted near a subway station in Sunset Park at 8 p.m. Monday. But police are not sure the 26-year-old suspect is linked to 13 other attacks in the last eight months.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Tuesday that, although police were putting “an all-out effort” into finding who is responsible for attacking the Brooklyn women, “we’re going to ratchet it up even more.” The police have added patrols and investigators in the area, he said.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also weighed in, saying he was “optimistic” that the attacker would be caught.

But many women living in the tree-lined areas of Prospect Park, Park Slope, Greenwood Heights and Sunset Park are worried and are taking extra precautions, according to local reports.

The attacks have mostly occurred at night, near subway stations as the victims, most of them petite and wearing a skirt, were walking home on dimly lit streets and then entered a building, according to police reports.

Several of the attacks were caught by surveillance cameras, and police have released sketches of suspects that have been posted in stores and subway stations around the area. The latest sketch was released Tuesday of a man who ambushed a woman Sunday night; he grabbed her breasts, but she screamed and was able break free.

"I don't feel safe at night. I never felt that way before," a local woman told NY1, a cable news station.

"It's terrifying. I've never been afraid in this neighborhood, but all of a sudden, being out at night, you have to think twice," said another.

Another woman said she now carries pepper spray while yet another said on her way home in the evenings she now makes sure to call a friend on her cell phone to keep contact in case she is attacked.

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 -- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: Sketch of suspect released Tuesday by the New York City Police Department. Credit: New York City Police Department.

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