April 16, 2012 By Christian Murray
Sunnyside and Woodside residents were stunned to learn that the punishment handed down to gropers is small.
Captain Terry O’Toole from the 108 Precinct told members of the United 40s Civic Association in Woodside on Thursday that most gropings were classified as “forcible touching” and were misdemeanors —punishable up to a year in jail.
“I don’t make the laws,” said Captain O’Toole, to an audience that thought the penalty would be more severe. “I just make the arrests.”
Perpetrators of these acts are often career criminals with long rap sheets with uncontrollable impulses, he said. Those who are caught are typically arrested on a host of other charges. However, in one recent case, the perpetrator is believed to be a homeless person.
Forcible touching according to state law is defined, in short, as: “the squeezing, grabbing or pinching of such other person’s sexual or other intimate parts.”
Liz Taylor, a local resident who attended the United 40s meeting, said afterward: “I think it is a disgrace that this is not viewed as a major crime,” adding, “It’s like the law says it’s no big deal.”
There have been at least seven groping incidents in Sunnyside and Woodside in the past eight months—at a time when there seems to be a wave of these sex attacks across New York City. Sex predators have been attacking women in Jackson Heights, Astoria and several neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn in recent months.
In those cases where violence is used for the purposes of “touching”, the district attorney is able to up the charges to sexual assault and other major felonies. However, that is dependent on the victim’s testimony and a host of other factors.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris, who has sponsored previous sex crimes legislation, said that New York state law, as a rule, is too soft on sex crimes.
“Sex offenders tend to be serial offenders,” he said. “Low level incidents on one day, wind up being extremely serious on another.”
As a general rule, “Legislation on sex crimes is always playing catch up,” he said.