200 surveillance cameras at Van Dyke houses fail to stop rape suspect
BY DORIAN BLOCK, VERONIKA BELENKAYA and ALISON GENDAR
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Friday, March 21st 2008, 4:00 AM
Video surveillance image of unidentified rape suspect inside elevator Thursday at Van Dyke housing complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Once again a rapist was caught on videotape, and once again cops failed to see him, police sources said Thursday.
A 19-year-old woman was raped at knifepoint inside the Van Dyke houses in Brooklyn early Thursday - a housing complex with more than 200 cameras supposedly monitored around the clock by the NYPD.
Sources told the Daily News that at least one video camera recorded the rapist grabbing the young woman and pulling her into an elevator.
The suspect hustled the young woman out of the elevator and raped her in a stairwell landing of the Brownsville complex, sources said. The actual sexual assault was not caught on video, police said.
"What he did is the worst thing to do to someone," the victim's aunt said. "He is a monster, this man."
Police officials believe the attacker is the same man who raped a 30-year-old woman March 6 in the housing complex.
In both cases, the man wielded a knife and dragged his victim to a stairway landing. Both times he made similar threats, saying, "Don't scream, don't fight or I'll stab you," sources said.
The 30-year-old victim told police she recognized the man from the neighborhood, which is why her guard was down.
What horrified residents was that in both cases, the rapist, if not the violent attack, was caught on video. The suspect who raped the woman March 6 was on camera for nearly 30 minutes, sources said.
Roughly 224 cameras feed live video to 30 small TV monitors. Each camera's image flashes for only seven seconds.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said the actual sex assault was not filmed. He said there was no indiction that any suspicious action was transmitted in the seven-second bursts.
Police released a video image of the suspect - and offered a $12,000 reward for his capture.
The video monitors are staffed mostly by cops who are on medical leave or face disciplinary action and cannot carry a weapon.
The officers, in the so-called viper units, call other cops to respond to criminal activity.
"It's mind-numbing, and actually difficult, to watch 30, 40, 50 cameras, all flashing different images every five to seven seconds," said a cop familiar with the system. "It's bad for the residents, it's bad for the cops."