Information about two late-night sexual assaults on women on Bennett Avenue has understandably shaken up Hudson Heights. One attack occurred in an apartment building and another occurred on the street, both well after midnight on separate evenings this month. The vocal support of local politicians and the temporary addition of twenty police officers to the 34th Precinct is reassuring. But it has become clear that the same characteristics that make Bennett Avenue a desirable residential street, the lack of commercial establishments and general quiet, also make it a target for criminals.
The only real solution in my opinion is the creation of a formal alliance among owners (co-ops, condos or landlords) to hire private security to patrol the area. Spread among many residents and, perhaps limited to evening hours, the cost would be minimal. A formal alliance to pay for security on Bennett, possibly under the banner of a Bennett Avenue Neighborhood Watch Association, would send a strong message that Bennett Avenue and Overlook Terrace are off-limits for criminals.
The idea is not original. Other urban areas have done the same. Consider Modesto, California, where 500 residents recently formed an association and agreed to pay $25/month each to cover the costs of a security patrol. There are several well-regarded private security companies in New York City that already patrol residential communities, like Fieldston in the Bronx.
There are some who will say that taxes should pay for police and other essential city services. There's no doubt that the City should be primarily responsible for police, parks, schools, sanitation, public transportation and other essential services. But it is also a realty that middle and upper-middle income communities in New York City have always supplemented municipal services with their own efforts. Castle Village's security force is the best local example.
Its time for the same approach on Bennett Avenue. Small public grants may be available to help in setting up the program and a website (although its doubtful that public funds would be available to help pay for private security.)
P.S.: For more information on the assaults, police rewards and sketches of the assailants, check out Carla Zanoni's articles at DNA Info.
Also, check out New York 1's video of the assailant in the third (unsuccessful) attack.