Sex Abuse Squad Nabs Flushing Library Offender
Detectives at the Queens Child Sex Abuse Squad tracked down and arrested a 49-year-old registered sex offender on July 7, charged with groping two young girls inside a Queens Library branch at 41-17 Main St. in Flushing.
Aided by a full color surveillance photo of a suspect fleeing the June 23 attacks, detectives charged Joel Gruber, of Brooklyn, with inappropriately touching the two girls, ages six and nine, inside the Children’s Section at the Flushing library branch.
Gruber, who lives at a Brooklyn homeless shelter, was arrested after a tipster recognized a surveillance photo of the suspect fleeing the library and alerted police of his whereabouts. The convicted child sex offender was on parole at the time of the June 23 attacks, law enforcement sources said. He was convicted in 2004 on charges of possessing child pornography and was paroled in April.
As a provision of his parole, Gruber was required to sign up with the New York state Sex Offender Registry – a move that aided detectives in his arrest, law enforcement sources said. “It is only reasonable to say that more cameras would take more perverts off the streets.”
Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has continued to wrestle crime in his district by installing a series of surveillance cameras in the area to help cops snare unsuspecting criminals caught in the act.
Vallone, who heads the council Public Safety Committee, kept his promise to install cameras at the Queens Library, Steinway branch at 21-45 31st St. in Astoria, where a man allegedly fondled a child in August 2011.
Police sources said the seven-year-old victim told investigators the man was creeping around in the second-floor Children’s Section just before he approached her.
The child told police she was sitting on the floor, reading, when the man tried to engage her in conversation – and then grabbed her feet.
The man fled when the terrified child ran to her mother on the first floor of the library, the sources said.
Police said the incident is an open case of misdemeanor child endangerment, which could put the suspect behind bars for up to one year, if convicted.
Vallone told the Queens Gazette he spoke with the child and her mother after the incident, and he was enraged that, when caught, the suspect could not face a charge that carries a stiffer penalty.
“Someone who does this to a child should face a felony charge that carries a more lengthy sentence,” Vallone said.
The Astoria lawmaker secured funding to cover the cost of installing surveillance cameras at the library branch and is working to secure funding for cameras in all library branches in his Astoria council district – a move that will help police identify suspects and act as a deterrent to this type of crime.
Detectives at the Queens Child Sex Abuse Squad are seeking help from the public to identify and locate the suspect in the August 2011 library attack in Astoria.
Police are urging anyone with information on the suspect to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.