Rapes by attackers previously unknown to their victims, known as ‘stranger rapes’ are occurring at an escalating rate in New York City. While only 117 ‘stranger rapes’ were reported in 2014, the city reported 166 in 2015, and last year those numbers per month increased over the course of the year. This classification within rape statistics would include the gang rape of an 18-year-old in Brownsville by five teenagers earlier this month. New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante notes that the 166 cases in 2015 reflect a higher incidence than, for example, traffic fatalities over the same period, an issue on the decline which still always commands greater attention.
Bellafante explains that data about where stranger rapes occur could be crucial for women to protect themselves from crime. Last year a judge sentenced a man to 100 years in prison for raping four women in 2013 over one week’s time. He preyed upon all of his victims along the B12 bus route between Crown Heights and Canarsie.
The police do not show where stranger rapes occur because, according to the NYPD, the privacy of victim’s must be protected and many rapes occur within a victim’s residence.
In a world obsessed with data and pre-emption, the Police Department does not make public a map of where and when stranger rapes have occurred, so that women might avoid particular streets or neighborhoods at certain times as a precaution. While it is possible to know, within microseconds of clicking on the department’s website, that there were three instances of grand larceny in Van Cortlandt Park during the third quarter of last year — hold on to your Nikon D7200! — there is no easy way for a civilian to determine, for instance, that the highest concentration of stranger rapes last year, nine, occurred in and around the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
The police could distribute regional data without listing specific addresses and would still be able to indicate which blocks or areas might be particularly dangerous. NYPD Commissioner Bratton stated this month that women should abide by a “buddy system” to stay safe from stranger rape, which sparked its own controversy over whether it is the responsibility of women to protect themselves from men. Yet, how would women go about doing this if the crime statistics are locked down by the department?
“If the department’s resistance stems from the fact that most women raped by strangers are attacked in their own homes, then that, too, seems like something worth broadcasting,” writes Bellafante.