Young woman slashed, mugged in Van Nest

A young woman on her way home after a night out with friends was slashed across her face during a mugging.

The horrific incident took place on Holland Avenue near Morris Park Avenue at about 12:15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, February 12, after 20-year-old Paula Delos Santos had just gotten off of the IRT #2 train and was walking home alone while talking to a friend on her cell phone.

About four blocks away from her home Delos Santos felt that she was being followed by a man, who was described as 5’5” or 5’6” and Hispanic.

In an instant, the man snuck up behind her and grabbed for her cell phone.

When Delos Santos resisted, the man slashed her on her left cheek with a cutting instrument, believed to be some sort of blade.

After being slashed, Delos Santos was shoved to the ground and kicked.

The assailant then fled with her pocketbook, keys and credit cards.

Delos Santos was treated at Jacobi Medical Center, where the three-inch laceration to her left cheek required 26 stitches to close.

According to multiple reports and sources, Delos Santos was more than likely distracted and unaware of the impending dangerous situation before it unfolded because she was on her cell phone.

As a result, many community leaders are recommending that children and young adults traveling alone, especially women, take the proper precautions when encountering a similar situation to this one or the one where a 23-year-old victim who was sexually assaulted in daylight by 21-year-old Brandon Gonzalez in Morris Park earlier this month. The victim was also on her cell phone when the incident took place.

“When an individual is walking alone, especially at night, it is important that their head is not buried in their cell phone or electronic device so they can be aware of their surroundings at all times,” said Captain Keith Walton, commanding officer of the 49th Precinct.

“We (the 49th and NYPD) suggest, in fact encourage, that pedestrians travel with additional people, and, if they are indeed traveling alone, they should carry a whistle, scream, or anything that can send an alert out in case they find themselves in a similar scenario – and, most importantly, be aware.”

“Having said that, we are not blaming the victim – we would just like individuals to ake the proper precautions if a similar situation is about to take place,” added Walton, who is planning on holding a Pre-National Night Out Against Crime within the next few months to get feedback from the community. “We also want people to know that this is not a case of a serial slasher in the Bronx – this seemed to just be a crime of opportunity.”

“When walking home alone, it is important to always stay vigilant – and that can’t be stressed enough,” said Jeremy Warneke, district manager for Community Board 11. “Electronic devices can easily distract a pedestrian and make them unaware, which can lead to unfortunate instances like this. It is vital for individuals to always be aware and conscious of their surroundings.”

“If somebody on the street is walking by themselves and is distracted by their electronic device, especially late at night, they automatically become a potential target,” said Al D’Angelo, vice president of the Morris Park Community Association. “As neighbors in this community, we have to protect and take care of each other – so if you see something suspicious, don’t hesitate to report it to the authorities and hopefully this man will be caught soon.”

One local resident who works in Times Square and frequently walks from the Bronx Park East IRT station to her home in Van Nest at 1 or 2 a.m., said that this incident is an odd occurrence for the neighborhood, but that it is never surprising when these incidents occur, regardless of the time and location.

“These incidents (referring to the slashing) can happen anywhere in the city, so it’s not surprising – but for this area, it’s pretty unusual,” she said.

As of press time, no arrests have been made.

Additional reporting contributed by Madeline Anthony.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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