A Caretaker who fought off an attempted rape at a Housing Authority project in Queens said that increased security at more-dangerous projects could help prevent future assaults.
Lasheyi Carrington, who works at the South Jamaica Houses, while walking down her building steps for an inspection was attacked July 17 by a non-resident who was naked from the waist down.
Upset by Reduced Charge
The attacker grabbed her arm and tried to drag her down the stairs, but Ms. Carrington fought him off and radioed for help, causing him to flee. He was later apprehended by her co-workers and arrested. She had been told the Queens District Attorney’s Office would charge him with trespassing and harassment, but the charge was later changed to criminal mischief, a decision that left her baffled and concerned.
“They said that when they spoke to the man that he had been on drugs, he didn’t even know what was going,” Ms. Carrington said. “He told one of my supervisors that he was coming back. That really doesn’t make me feel better about coming there or for any other woman that is on the job.”
Increased security would help her on the job, she continued. “For certain areas like South Jamaica, developments that have extra problems, I think you should have two people in buildings like that...they have video surveillance, but it could be more. They only have it in the lobby or basement areas; it’s a lot of space to cover.”
The HA communications office declined to comment, citing an ongoing Police Department investigation.
But Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd said that the attempted assault “further illustrates how dangerous the Housing environment has become. Crime has increased in recent years.”
‘Need Better Security’
“Last year, one of our members was shot at Howard Houses,” he continued. “We’ve had members stabbed, now nearly raped, robbed, threatened. All while trying to perform a public duty for men and women who live in public housing.We need better security. This problem has gone on too long.”
A lack of infrastructure and upkeep remains a problem, Mr. Floyd said. “Cameras and surveillance equipment definitely are lacking. Elevator mechanics go on roofs at night to service the elevators and on a few occasions have had firearms pulled on them by Police Officers, because the lights on top of the development are out.”
Some $42 million has reportedly been earmarked to equip HA projects with security surveillance, but Mr. Floyd said nothing had been done yet. “That money is sitting there. I don’t know how much they’re going to need to secure the 346 developments, but $42 million is definitely a start.”
He said he had not yet spoken to HA Chairman John Rhea on the subject, however.
HA Shamed Into Action
After the Daily New did stories and editorials two weeks ago on the security problems and the unused money, embarrassed HA officials said they would expedite purchase and installation of surveillance systems for many projects.
Jakwan Rivers, a rival to Mr. Floyd who ran for vice president of Local 237 in 2009, is Ms. Carrington’s rep at South Jamaica Houses and said he was upset at the DA’s decision to charge the assailant with criminal mischief.
“He was half-naked from the waist down, and they still call it criminal mischief,” Mr. Rivers said in a phone interview. “Whenever a HA employee is attacked or the victim of an attack, it’s always downplayed. That’s one of the reasons we’re calling for stiffer laws for when you attack an HA employee.”