Guest Author - Carol Taller
On July 11, 1980 the New York City Police Department arrested Jerome Wright in connection with a series of “dart” attacks. More than fifty women reported being struck by a dart during the summer of 1990 in New York City.
The darts were mostly aimed at women’s “backsides”, and the women seemed to fit a similar profile of a light complexion and wearing business attire of either suits or skirts. The summer of 1980 became the summer of casual attire for the women of Manhattan to avert being targeted. Suits were traded for shorts or casual slacks and women walked around glancing behind them or holding their backsides. Before the attacker’s identity was known, the media dubbed the mystery attacker “The Dart Man”.
New York City Police increased the number of uniform and plainclothes officers in the area to search for the dart attacker. But undercover detectives indicated that there was more crime on the streets than the single “Dart Man”. They knew it would be much easier to catch a pickpocket than the one single Dart Man who could target someone anywhere in the city.
Members of the volunteer crime fighting Guardian Angels got involved and handed out tip sheets to avoiding becoming a victim of the Dart Man. They also illegally placed signs over outdoor subway maps reminding pedestrians that the “Angels” were still on the case. A spokesman for the group said that about 50 Guardian Angels had patrolled the area in which attacks have been reported, between 23d and 57th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Broadway.
Wright was a 33 year old messenger for an advertising agency in Manhattan. The police said the assailant blew the darts through a tiny blow-gun-like device into the buttocks of women. Three witnesses were able to identify him in a lineup. Even though he had a prior criminal history (selling cocaine and petty larceny) he was granted bail at $1,000 and all of the charges against him reduced to misdemeanors. His charges were eventually dropped entirely without prosecution due to lack of evidence.