RIOC Responds to Public Lewdness Accusations and Protest

An Open Letter To Roosevelt Island Residents, Businesses and Visitors

Alonza Robertson
An Open Letter To Roosevelt Island Residents, Businesses and Visitors

Stung by public protests over the Public Safety Department's handling of crime reports, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation released a open letter in response. We are publishing it in full, without editing.

RIOC's Open Letter About Public Lewdness Accusations and Protest

A recent public protest concerning the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department (PSD), its procedures for collecting crime reports and how it reports their statistics has generated questions requiring a response.

The allegations against PSD center around accusations of suppressing reports about public lewdness incidents on the Island.

On September 7, 2017, a resident called PSD to report a suspicious person masturbating in a 10th-floor hallway of the Roosevelt Landing housing complex. The complainant stood nearby and used her cellphone to take a four-minute video of the incident before the officers arrived. After interviewing the woman and canvassing the area, the alleged suspect could not be found.

In addition, once the video was turned over to PSD, and later to New York Police Department (NYPD) officers who also responded to the scene, it was not possible to identify the individual as there were no images of his face.

The subsequent report about the incident was filed as a suspicious person incident with a full description of the lewdness act of masturbation. The PSD computer report filing system did not include a lewdness category in its dropdown options at the time and accordingly, the incident was recorded as suspicious activity. That has since been corrected.

The PSD and RIOC spent more than 20 hours and attended a host of meetings with the victim, RI community-organization leaders and others discussing this incident, reviewing the video, discussing the dispatch call and response as well as a thorough review of all suspicious person reports since 2016.

Three other lewdness incidents were found to have been reported during that 24-month period. No suspects have been arrested in any the incidents, but per policies, PSD has submitted evidence to NYPD against a person of interest in one of the incidents.

Erin Feely-Nahem, chairwoman of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association’s Public Safety Committee and a participant in some of the previously-described discussions, recently said in a statement to The Roosevelt Islander news blog that she “does not support the allegation of a PSD cover-up or a widespread pattern” of (lewd) behavior on Roosevelt Island.

The PSD is committed to responding patiently and compassionately to all community concerns about this or any other incidents and is proud of its efforts to keep the community the safest place in the safest big city in America.

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