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Horowitz: Has New York City become a sanctuary for sexual predators?

Op-ed
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So, a man exposes himself to a mother and toddler at a Manhattan playground, urinates in the street, and then lies down in the middle of Broadway traffic to fondle himself. You might be thinking that this is yet another example of out-of-control homelessness flooding New York's streets in another sign of the once great city returning to the pre-Giuliani era. It certainly is evidence of a return to a free run for criminals, but this story portends a much more active permissiveness of criminality rather than the passive one that existed in the 1980s.

In May, Jeremy Soto, 36, was arrested by the NYPD for the aforementioned incident in Fort Tryon Park, according to a copy of the police complaint obtained by the New York Post. He was arrested two days later "for allegedly hugging a woman from behind on a Bronx subway platform, grabbing her breasts and kissing her neck." At the time, he told police he was high on PCP. But more shockingly, at the time of the playground incident, he was an on-duty uniformed parks worker for the city of New York.

"It's a shame the city couldn't have better vetted him beforehand," you might be thinking after reading this shocking story. Well, actually the city had a perfect opportunity to vet him. According to the Post, "He has 15 arrests on his rap sheet dating back to 2003, and in January he was charged with — and pled guilty to — twice grabbing the butt of a woman walking near the same park."

It turns out that Soto had been working for the city in various positions since 2016 and was hired as a parks maintenance worker on February 23, after the guilty plea for sexual assault. In an interview with the Post, Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said that Soto did not divulge the January arrest on his application. But the obvious question is why wouldn't government officials do proper background checks on their own employees? According to Lalor, they also do background checks in addition to the self-reporting box on the application, but they "don't automatically deny a candidate based on an arrest or conviction, and we don't consider arrests where the case was dismissed." Soto pleaded guilty to 15 crimes over the years, including the January sexual assault incident.

Thus, the "criminal justice reform" agenda to hire felons is so potent that they clearly ignored his criminal record when he applied for a city job and then failed to fire him even after he pled guilty to attacking a woman in such a serious way.

One of the obsessions of the jailbreak movement, backed by the Koch-Soros alliance, has been to "ban the box" on the application stating criminal history. In December 2019, at the behest of the Trump administration, a provision was snuck into the defense authorization bill that bars the federal government or government contractors from asking about criminal records on job applications for government jobs, except for those that require security clearances. This was a major policy change, yet there was no debate about this provision and none of the members opposing it even knew it was in the bill until it became law.

The coddling of criminals is the most problematic when it comes to sexual predators because it is a nearly incurable illness that will continue to recur absent a strong deterrent. Clearly, there is a reason these predators don't fear the justice system, as there is a growing trend of women being attacked on subways and even on the streets.

On Sunday night, a criminal was caught on camera grabbing a Texas tourist on her way to a Manhattan hotel, kissing and fondling her, then throwing her to the ground as he took her purse. What was even more shocking was an incident in Brooklyn earlier this month when a suspect was caught on camera tackling a woman and sexually assaulting her on a sidewalk in broad daylight. Around the same time, another woman was grabbed and strangled in a daylight attack in the Bronx. Last month, a woman was grabbed on a main street in Washington Heights and forced to perform a sexual act on the street in middle of the afternoon.

I have no doubt that with facial recognition technology, police will catch these criminals, and I have no doubt the suspects all have long rap sheets and will likely be let off relatively easy again. While police can always use more resources and investigators, they have better technology than ever, yet we have more crime than ever. That is because cameras and policing are meaningless if the justice system is focused on avoiding prison at all costs. And nothing says getting tough on crime more than the city itself hiring known sex offenders for taxpayer-funded jobs.
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