04:50 GMT18 May 2021
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    Restaurants in the Big Apple reopened on 12 February, and were permitted to work at a quarter of their indoor capacity amid mass vaccinations. New York City authorities then expanded indoor dining capacity to 50 percent last month. Customers are still prevented from ordering at the bar, but can be served at tables when they order food.

    The New York Police Department (NYPD) has seen a significant surge in reports of sexual abuse over the last week compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD statistics, against the background of a relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions.

    Officers registered 322 percent more rape reports within the week from 29 March to 4 April, with 38, while last year, figures reported nine. During the week before last, sexually-based attacks almost doubled, rising by 94 percent, from 17 to 33.

    According to retired NYPD sergeant Joseph Giacalone, who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the sharp increase is not a coincidence, as hospitality venues lift capacity to 50 percent.

    “As New Yorkers get vaccinated and start venturing out to the bar and nightclub scene, just beware of your surroundings and who you hang out with. Don’t let your guard down, don’t drink to excess, and never leave a friend behind,” he told the New York Post.

    Police data shows that 14 of the 174 rapes that were reported across the Big Apple between 1 January and 4 April were committed by strangers and 160 through “acquaintances”, including those who met that same night.

    NYPD report on crimes, covering the week from 3 March to 4 April 2021
    © Photo : NYPD
    NYPD report on crimes, covering the week from 3 March to 4 April 2021

    According to the newspaper, police have not yet released sexual assault statistics related to the recent relief of pandemic protocols. As a NYPD spokeswoman noted, “year-to-date, rape complaints have declined by 13 percent.”

    “We remain in unprecedented times amid the continuing strains of COVID-19. It’s always preferable to view crime statistics over a long period, to determine trends particularly during this ongoing pandemic,” she said, recalling the importance of victims who “come forward.”

    On 19 March, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed catering establishments to host additional people, increasing indoor attendance from 35 to 50 percent of capacity.

    To date, nearly 882,000 coronavirus infections have been reported in New York City, along with 31,731 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic. Across the state, the number of those who have tested positive is at least 1.94 million, while the amount of coronavirus-related deaths has topped 50,502.


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