Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Police Arrest Homeless Man Wanted For Exposing Himself To Kids/Parents In Upper Manhattan Playgrounds

Francisco Santana, 55,  pushing a wheelchair along Ft. Washington Ave. & 176th Street before his arrest on Friday on multiple counts.  He has been arrested more than twenty times since 1995  including for public lewdness and burglary according to the police. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Police have arrested one person and interviewed another wanted last week for questioning in connection with reports of strangers approaching children and asking them personal questions, and in some cases taking their pictures in upper Manhattan parks NYC Park Advocates has learned.  

One of the "creeps," allegedly  "seen pleasuring himself next to a breast feeding mother,"  who pushes an empty wheel chair and exposes himself in playgrounds was arrested.  

On Friday afternoon police apprehended Francisco Santana, 55, steeming from three incidents from July 21st to October 31st.

According to the complaint Santana was seen masturbating on a park bench inside J. Hood Wright Park in July and August.  He was charged with two counts of  Public Lewdness. 

In October he was observed masturbating in Bennett Park in front of a child under two years of age and in front of approximately eight other children under the age of thirteen. He was charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child,  Public Lewdness and Exposure of a Person.

He has been arrested more than twenty times since 1995 according to the police.

Charges include numerous burglary charges.  He was also arrested for public lewdness in 2005.  

Santana lives in a homeless shelter on Wards Island and sources say he may also be a client at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory homeless shelter a few blocks from J. Hood Wright Park. 

Parents in Washington Heights and Inwood sounded the alarm recently and took to social media and parent list serves posting stories and warnings of the behavior of these two men.

At a community meeting on Wednesday the 34th Pct.  Inspector stressed the importance of the public to contact the precinct directly if they had any experience or had any info about these individuals.

On Friday a detective from the 34th Pct. Community Affairs sent out an email asking for the public's help.

"Anyone with specific information regarding the gentleman with a wheelchair acting inappropriately in the park,  please contact the 34th Precinct as soon as possible." 

Police responded quickly after receiving several complaints and tips from parents including photos of Mr. Santana pushing a wheelchair.  Within hours he was in custody.

Police from the 33 pct. working in connection with the 34 pct. apprehended Santana  at 173rd Street & Ft .Washington Avenue near J. Hood Wright Park after he was identified by a caretaker in the park.

Parents say he has also been seen in Javits Playground in Fort Tryon Park. 

"Whomever is at the park right now should clearly stay away but also contact the police immediately," one mom posted on November 18th.

"This man came up to my sitter a few weeks ago while she was with my son at Javits (playground).  He was pushing the wheelchair all the while, his genitals were completely exposed.

He must be locked up! "

Another wrote:

"Watch out for a Hispanic male with a ponytail that comes to the playgrounds with a wheelchair,  but no child. He was seen pleasuring himself next to a breast feeding mother. Police were called,  but he took off toward Haven Avenue. Please be on the lookout for him around other playgrounds and call the police. "

Another wrote:

"He's at j hood right now,  on a bench by the dog park,  in case anyone cares to avoid that spot for a while."

Once concerned resident took photos which helped police id the man.

Francisco Santana, 55,  pushing a wheelchair along Ft. Washington Ave.

"I was incredibly elated and relieved to learn of the arrest,"  one parent told A Walk In The Park upon hearing the news.

"When I first learned of what this man was doing,  I became very concerned but when I learned he had actually been in close proximity to my own child and his caretaker,  I went crazy. I refused to have either one of my boys go to the parks until I knew the perpetrator had been caught.

Thankfully,  through community awareness and activism,  this monster is off the streets!" 

His incarceration was short-lived.

Santana was arraigned on both cases on Saturday. The DA's office requested $7,500 bail for the incident that occurred on October and $5,000 bail for the one in July. The Judge however released Santana on his own recognizance without requiring bail.    

Santana’s next court date for both cases is Decembr 19th. 

One area resident person posted a warning, noting he was released without bail,  "Just in case anyone saw him around the neighborhood and was concerned why he was out.) It is recommended to call 911 if you see this person acting inappropriately and to be specific with the 911 operator that this person has a history of this with open charges filed against him for these acts." 

Police also caught up with a second man wanted for questioning in separate incidents in Isham Park after receiving several complaints from concerned parents and caretakers. 
In those instances the man asked personal questions of two 4-5 year old girls including their names and where they lived, he also took photographs. 

On one occasion the man followed a family home out of the park and took photos of  a little girl along the way and refused to stop even when the caretaker explicitly asked him not to.  She ended up screaming at him to make him go away.

"This guy gave the sitter the 'creeps', so she took the kids and quickly left the park. No one else was around, " one writer posted. 

Police paid him a visit over the weekend at his Park Terrace East apt but no charges were filed. 

A source says he is in the process of moving out of state. 

This comes so the heels of a terrifying incident on Friday when a jogger escaped a would-be rapist in Fort Tryon Park in broad daylight.  Police sources say the woman was running between Ft. Tryon Park and the Cloisters around noon when she was approached by a man who came out of the woods.

"You know what you want," the assailant said in a strong Spanish accent according to a law enforcement source.  He grabbed the jogger from behind and put her in a bear hug.  The victim was able to broke free and ran home and called the police. 

She did not get a look at the assailant.

These incidents have once again raised concerns in upper Manhattan parks where members of the public have been pressing for funding for increased security including dedicated PEP officers. 

The 34 has more parkland than any other precinct other than Central Park and currently has 3 "park portables"  - dedicated police officers deployed to parks that are providing coverage seven days a week.

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