Arrest total climbs to 16 in Central Park sex attacks

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The Independent US

The number of arrests climbed to 16 in a string of attacks on women who were stripped and groped by gangs of young men in Central Park last weekend.

The number of arrests climbed to 16 in a string of attacks on women who were stripped and groped by gangs of young men in Central Park last weekend.

Seven of the arrests took place on Friday. Police believe up to 60 men were responsible for the harassment, molestation and in some cases robbery of 47 women, ranging in age from 14 to 40, including four tourists.

On Friday, police released 17 more photos of suspects, taken from amateur videotapes of the attacks.

Of the 16 men arrested so far, four were found after tipsters called a police hot line. Seven others surrendered after seeing their photos either in newspapers or on television.

All of the attacks occurred in daylight, most of them at the southern end of the park, near the Central Park Zoo and the Plaza Hotel.

"This appears to be something that happened relatively spontaneously, and apparently some of them did not really recognize the seriousness of the matters they were involved in," Police Commissioner Howard Safir said.

While more than 75 detectives have been assigned full-time to catching the suspects, Internal Affairs investigators are focusing on whether any officers failed to help victims, as some of the women have complained.

"Without prejudging, my sense is we'll probably find four or five police officers who acted inappropriately while the vast majority of them acted appropriately," the police commissioner said. "Those police officers who acted inappropriately will be subject to discipline."

During his weekly radio appearance, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called the attacks a travesty but said the majority of officers did their jobs. He ended his show by saying: "Make sure you get out into the park, enjoy yourself, have a great weekend."

Gov. George Pataki said he will propose legislation making gang sexual assault a crime punishable by three to five years in prison.

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