NEW YORK - The NYPD is concerned about a growing way for criminals to escape their brazen and at times heinous crimes: motorized scooters and mopeds. Police say the getaway vehicles are hard to stop.
"When these scooters come on, they can zip out, that's why the perpetrators are using them," Chief of Detectives James Essig said. "They zip in and out of traffic, they move quick, they're very difficult to stop."
Essig warns they are being used in robberies, shootings, and sexual assaults.
"Many times they mask up. They're very hard to identify," Essig says. "Detectives have to track that scooter a long ways."
The latest offense happened in Fort Tyron Park, in Manhattan, where wanted posters now wallpaper the streetlamps warning parkgoers of the risk.
The attack happened in broad daylight on Saturday. A woman was out running when a man attacked her, dragged her behind a tree by her hair, punched her in the face, and then sexually assaulted her, New York City police said.
The attacker then stole her watch and phone and took off a motorized scooter.
This was the third incident in recent weeks involving an assault and a moped, police said.
"The NYPD needs to create a unit that focuses solely on individuals on these motorized scooters and dirt bikes," Darrin Porcher, a law enforcement analyst and retired cop, told FOX 5 NY. "When criminals understand that there's an enforcement agenda that's targeted towards the criminality."
Police are also investigating around 16 robbery patterns across the city with the use of scooters and mopeds.
"It's usually two people on a scooter if they're going to do a crime," Essig said. "One shoots off the back. One jumps off if it's going to be a robbery. They're always masked up fully."
In one incident that was caught on camera, three men on mopeds rode up to a man walking down a Bronx sidewalk. They robbed the man at gunpoint before quickly riding off.
In July the NYPD warned that a pair of scooter-riding suspects were wanted in connection to at least 15 robberies across Manhattan and the Bronx.
According to authorities, the men either displayed a gun to threaten their victims or claimed they were armed and then demanded the victims hand over their valuables.