The web poster who cried ‘rape’

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An online report of a rape last week in Park Slope turned out to be a “damn game of telephone” that erroneously transformed a robbery into a brutal sexual assault.

Last Monday, someone named “Kristyn” posted on the popular Park Slope Parents blog that the mother of one of her son’s friends was “brutally attacked” during an attempted rape gone bad on Fourth Avenue over the previous weekend.

“She was beaten so savagely that her children could not recognize her,” the person wrote. “Evidently, the police said this is the fourth such attack in the neighborhood recently.”

“Kristyn” conceded that she didn’t get the information directly from the family — but thought it to be disturbing enough to post nevertheless.

But cops said the crime — a robbery, not a rape — actually occurred on Eighth Street between Second and Third avenues — a gritty block closer to Gowanus than Park Slope — and centered around two men who beat up a shop owner as part of an early morning robbery. The victim fought back, and in the struggle, briefly lost consciousness.

However disturbing the incident, it is not part of a pattern of violence, cops said.

A 78th Precinct lieutenant “absolutely discounted” that there have been four similar incidents, blog founder Susan Fox added, a fact that is confirmed by our own crime data, compiled from weekly reporting inside the stationhouse.

That database reveals that in the past month, there have been one robbery, seven burglaries and a car theft,

The post generated a firestorm of cyber-consternation, but days after the match was lit, Fox stamped out the flame, decrying the post, comparing it to a “damn game of telephone,” where the facts change as they filter from one person to the next.

“It shouldn’t have been posted and caused unnecessary alarm in the community — when it didn’t even happen in Park Slope,” Fox continued. “The post made it sound like it was a rampant problem.”

It is unclear how the precinct classified the incident or why it was not included in the weeky reports presented to our reporter every week.

At press time, Lt. Pat Diskin and Deputy Inspector John Argenziano, the 78th Precinct’s commanding officer, did not return calls for comment.

For the year, robberies are up 12 percent in the precinct, which includes Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, according to police data. Four rapes have been reported so far in 2010 compared to five last year.

Fox said she understood the worry generated by the post.

“It’s terrifying if it’s true,” she said.

— with Joe Anuta

Updated 12:55 am, October 25, 2010
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