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NYC police search for final suspect in teenage playground rape

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City police were searching for the last of a group of teenage boys as young as 14 suspected of raping an 18-year-old woman in a Brooklyn playground late last week after ordering her father to leave at gunpoint, polic...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City police were searching for the last of a group of teenage boys as young as 14 suspected of raping an 18-year-old woman in a Brooklyn playground late last week after ordering her father to leave at gunpoint, police said on Monday.

Officers had taken into custody four of the five suspects, one aged 14, two 15 and one 17, by Sunday night. Two of the suspects were apprehended and another two turned themselves in. They gave no details about the remaining suspect.

While city leaders and experts expressed shock over the incident coupled with the suspects' ages, they said the crime illustrates stubborn violence in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods and rising rates of reported rape citywide.

The rape occurred just after 9 p.m. on Thursday in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville.

The victim was with her father in a city playground when the five males approached them, police said. One of the young men pointed a gun at the pair and ordered the father to leave.

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After the father left, each of the males raped the woman, police said. By the time the father returned with two uniformed police officers, the suspects had fled.

The woman was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released.

Police have revealed surveillance video taken in a nearby grocery store that they said showed the five suspects before the attack. The video depicts a group of young black men talking and laughing inside the store.

"It's very surprising to know that there are young adults in our neighborhood capable of committing these types of crimes," said city Councilman Rafael Espinal, whose district encompasses part of Brownsville.

However, Espinal said, an increase in gun-related crimes and a lack of youth programs has fueled crime in Brownsville, the poorest neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Reported rapes rose 6.3 percent citywide in 2015.

"It could be emblematic of the general trend in reported rapes," said Eli Silverman, John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor emeritus. Silverman cautioned that rapes often go unreported or are reported with a delay, skewing crime statistics.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday denounced the crime. "This administration has zero tolerance for sexual attacks," he said. The city would "not stop until the perpetrators of this disturbing attack are held accountable."

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Charges are pending against the suspects.

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By Laila Kearney

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