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A Neighborhood of NYC Dogsters Copes With Sexual Assault

Saturday's first dog walk of themorning involved navigating an obstacle course of police lines. Yellow "Crime Scene" tape was stretched tight to cordon off the...

Julia Szabo  |  Aug 14th 2011


Saturday’s first dog walk of themorning involved navigating an obstacle course of police lines.

Yellow “Crime Scene” tape was stretched tight to cordon off the area surrounding a building directlyacross the street fromthe one where my dogs and I live; a Crime Scene Unit vehicle was double-parked out front, as various police officers and investigators went about the business of getting to the bottom of what had happened. When asked what was going on, the officers weren’t telling, but news reports on TV and online told the story.

It turned out that, less than two hours earlier, shortly after 5 a.m., a young womanhad beensexually assaulted in the apartment where she lived alone.The window gate to her street-facing unit on the first floor had been left open, making it easy for the assailant to climb in and attack her while she slept. Thankfully, the victim survived -but her attacker escaped and remains at large.

All day, investigators searched for clues,using UV light to locate fingerprints and other CSI methods. And as news crews covered the scene, the entire neighborhood felt violated. This, after all, is the Upper East Side of Manhattan, supposedly one of the city’sbest,safest, and dog-friendliest neighborhoods. Many residents of the block (this reporter included)stoodaround in disbelief. Passersby stopped to wonder at the open window, where an Arkansas Razorbacks pennant was stillproudly displayed; it had survived the break-in.

During one shift of my dogs’ evening walk, as K9 Cupcake busily hunted for cockroaches, I was stopped by a reporterfor NY1 News, who asked me if I thought there wasanything New Yorkers could do to prevent such an attack from happening to them.

In my humble opinion,a dog is the best crime prevention there is. So I explained toNY1 reporter Erica Ferrari that I volunteer forNew York City Animal Care & Control,the local animal shelter, and that every NewYorker who’s concerned about safety – but especially women living alone – should adopt a shelter dog. It’s a win-win situation: Doing so would help reduce the city’s population of homeless dogs and help cut down on crime.

Here’s the sound bite that made it intolast night’sfollow-upsegment at 11 p.m.:

“The frank fact is that,had she had a dog, OK,I bet she would’ve had a much better chance of fighting this guy off-or the guy would’ve probably not come in.”

Of course, many landlords in New York City and elsewheremaintain a strict no-pets policy, which makes it impossible to install a four-footed home security expert.This strikes me as completely counter-intuitive, because if you allow dogs ina building, the building and the neighborhood as a whole become safer.

On the other hand, when crimes happen in a neighborhood and word gets out on the news – as it did yesterday – the hood develops a reputation for being unsafe. And that’s bad for the apartment-rental business, as itdoesn’t exactly help landlordslease their propertiesat a premium.

Dogsters, what do you think? Is the presence of a dog – regardless of size or breed – a strong deterrent to intruders? Should landlords be more flexible about allowing pets, so that tenantsmay feel safer in their apartments? Please share your thoughts in the comments.