The Zerega community is taking the hunt for a rapist into its own hands.
Zerega residents are looking to organize a meeting to raise awareness and community involvement to address the shocking rape of a 79-year-old woman in a Zerega apartment house last month.
A meeting was originally set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 17, in the basement of Santa Maria Church at 2352 St. Raymond Ave., but because the 45th Precinct captain will be out of town, the meeting has been rescheduled for later in the month.
As of press time, the date had not been fixed, but the Tuesday meeting will continue as planned, though police will not be attending. The Tuesday event will focus on passing out new “WANTED” posters of the rapist, with the latest information about evidence and rewards.
Both meetings are being organized by Father Fernando Real, of Santa Maria Parish, and community members. Event organizers said the meeting planned for later this month will be an informational session between the police and the community regarding the rape incident, rising crime in the area and how the community can get more involved.
Event organizers expect local elected officials, community leaders, members of the 45th Precinct and the Bronx Special Victims Unit to attend.
“They’re concerned,” said vice president of the 45th Precinct Community Council Bob Bieder, who planned to attend both meetings. “The goal is to see what they can do to catch this dangerous criminal.”
According to police reports the rape incident, which sent shock waves through the community, happened at 2 a.m. on July 19, outside the elevator in an apartment complex at 1400 Benson Street.
The victim is believed to have been returning from a late-night walk through the neighborhood when she was punched in the face and assaulted.
Police said the suspect is a 5-foot-7 Hispanic male in his 20s who left the building wearing a dark shirt with the number 00 on the back.
According to the report, neighbors noted that the woman suffered from mild dementia and was very trusting. She frequently went on walks at off hours in the night, which they said could account for her being out so late, and holding the door for her attacker.
Bieder said he expected the rise in crime that the precinct has witnessed in the past month, andthe lack of progress in stopping the criminals, to be discussed at the second meeting in August.
“We have two shooters on the loose,” he said, referring to two recent shootings on Westchester and Zerega avenues. “It’s getting out of control.”
Bieder believes police have not been paying much attention to the criminal issues in the area, and a grass-roots community meeting is a sign that the residents want the issues addressed.
“The big concern is the lack of police attention to these things,” he said. “The crime rate is skyrocketing and we’re getting little attention.”