News of three sexual attacks in Valley Stream and Lynbrook sent fear through those communities as Nassau police awaited results of forensic testing to determine if one man committed the assaults.
Some residents also questioned why police had not told the public sooner about the Aug. 12 sexual assaults in Lynbrook and Valley Stream.
Nassau police first reported the two Aug. 12 sexual assaults on Wednesday afternoon. Police said they were investigating the possibility that the two attacks were related to the Sunday morning rape of a 60-year-old woman in Valley Stream State Park.
"It's a wake-up call," said Mary Harrison, 51, of Franklin Square, who was walking in the park with her friend Thursday afternoon. "Women need to know. Maybe that woman who got raped wouldn't have walked by herself if she knew about the other attacks."
No arrests have been made, but police have stepped up patrols and used undercover officers in the areas where the attacks occurred, distributing fliers with a sketch of the rape suspect.
Nassau police Insp. Kenneth Lack said in a statement that the department has deployed its Special Victims Squad, Bureau of Special Operations and patrol officers, and is working with other law enforcement agencies to apprehend "this individual," referring to the rapist.
"There is a possibility the three cases are connected and we are awaiting forensic testing to determine if the same suspect is involved," Lack said. The decision to publicize the possible link to Sunday's rape was made "as the investigation progressed" and the public's assistance was sought to help find the suspect, he said.
The first attack occurred Aug. 12 about 8:45 p.m. when a man on a bike and with a thin build, standing about 5-foot-8, forced his way into 58-year-old woman's house, police said. He grabbed her in an "inappropriate manner," and tried to take off her pants and choked her. The suspect fled on his bike when the victim called out for help, alerting a neighbor, who called police.
Twenty minutes later, police said, a 30-year-old woman was walking southbound on Mill Road from the train station when a similar-looking male on a bike grabbed the woman's buttocks. He tried to rip off her shirt and pin her to the ground, but she fought him off and he fled on his bike.
Dorothy Sanchez, 54, of Lynbrook, said she was shocked to hear about the rape and other attacks, as she walked along a trail in the park Thursday.
"I always thought it was the perfect place," said Sanchez, a teacher. "To me, it was always so safe. Now I won't wear my headset."
Subeg Singh, who lives near the park entrance, said police knocked on his door Monday morning, with a flier bearing a sketch of the rape suspect.
"After this happened, I see a lot" of police, said Singh, 37, a cabdriver. "Before this happened, I don't see any."
Singh said he frequents the park with his wife and two daughters, ages 7 and 5. But now, he said, "We don't even want to think about going. We pay a lot of taxes, we should have better service."
At the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road station, near where one of the sexual assaults occurred, women said they were shocked and unnerved.
"Now I have to be afraid to walk to the train," said Dina Branco, 28, of Valley Stream.
Tara Bernard, who grew up in the Gibson area of Valley Stream and had arrived at the station Thursday to spend the day with her mother before returning home to Manhattan, said she was surprised.
"It's very scary when something that horrific happens right in your backyard," said Bernard, 33, a speech pathologist.