By Thomas Tracy and Rich Schapiro New York Daily News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The NYPD attributes the spike in sexual offenders -- to a stepped-up campaign with the MTA urging the public to report subway sex crimes and the proliferation of smartphones making it easier to catch creeps in the act.
Reggie Frank prowls city subways in search of women.
Not to ask them on a date. Not even to rob them.
The 47-year-old Brooklyn man derives a sick pleasure from masturbating in front of females -- again and again and again.
Frank is among the repeat offenders driving a steep rise in complaints about men exposing themselves underground.
The NYPD opened a total of 376 cases in 2017, a whopping 27% increase from the 296 recorded the prior year.
The complaints have been rising steadily over the past 10 years, according to police data.
Last year's total represents a 98% jump from 2012 -- and a nearly 120% increase from 2007.
Experts say the spike is likely fueled in part by a glut of serial public masturbators who have received little to no treatment.
"The urge to act out sexually is so strong that it almost becomes compulsive," said William Ford, co-founder of Mustard Seed, a community-based organization that treats deviant sexual behavior.
"These guys are repeat offenders and they have hundreds of victims."
NYPD officials insist that there is no sudden influx of depraved men prowling the subways.
Instead, the police attribute the spike to other factors -- a stepped-up campaign with the MTA urging the public to report subway sex crimes and the proliferation of smartphones making it easier to catch creeps in the act.
Ford and other experts agree that these circumstances likely add to the surge in cases.
While the numbers may not tell the whole story, what's clear is that the city is infected by a swath of men who can't seem to stop pleasuring themselves in front of horrified women.
Frank himself has been busted at least seven times for public lewdness in the subways, including twice last month.
"It's completely frightening that he's still on the streets and still doing things on different trains," said Tiffany Jackson, a victim in a 2015 attack by Frank.
The NYPD keeps a list of individuals who have been busted more than once for exposing themselves underground. And plainclothes officers rove the subway system in the hope of catching men in the act.
But these suspects pose a thorny problem for the criminal justice system, experts say.
The crimes typically fall under the charge of public lewdness, a class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of up to three months imprisonment or one year probation.
The maximum penalty is tougher -- one year behind bars -- for suspects charged with the crime after receiving a conviction that same year.
A spokesman for the city Health and Hospitals -- which oversees medical care for inmates -- said it delivers "appropriate treatment" for prisoners with issues that include impulse control.
But men like Frank who have spent numerous stints behind bars illustrate the criminal justice system's inability to rehabilitate this deviant population.
"It's not an easy problem to solve," said Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor-turned-defense lawyer.
"If judges and prosecutors start insisting on more jail, it would take them off the streets and subways for longer, but it wouldn't make them better."
Offenders who plead guilty are increasingly being sent to mandated treatment programs rather than to jail. But the system is uneven and the stints in treatment are often too short to result in effective rehabilitation, experts say.
These men struggle with deep psychological issues that require intensive therapy, say the people who treat them.
"Ideally we like to have them for at least a year," said Ford, of Mustard Seed. "You often have to battle through the denial that clients come in with."
Ford said he has counseled men who have been exposing themselves for more than a decade. One of his current clients is believed to have thousands of victims.
"He can't even put a number to it," Ford said. "Thousands of times he's exposed himself to women in the subways, and only now, 10 years after he started, is he getting treatment."
Dr. Richard Krueger has been treating public masturbators and others with deviant sexual behavior for more than 20 years.
He said many of the treatment techniques resemble those used on people who suffer from drug and alcohol abuse
"A lot of treatment for this comes from the substance abuse field where you view this as a relapsing condition and try to enhance control," said Krueger, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.
A serial subway masturbator, for instance, is urged to avoid riding the rails. If the behavioral therapies prove ineffective, doctors like Krueger turn to a more potent form of treatment targeting a man's testosterone levels.
This last resort is known as chemical castration.
"If you reduce testosterone to very low levels, which you can do through medications, you can reduce their sexual drive and give them more control over their sexual behavior," Krueger said.
The repeat offenders encompass a diverse lot.
Dennis Sacaza, 52 and indigent, is accused of pleasuring himself on subway trains five times in just the last 18 months.
The 55-year-old Dan Hoyt, an East Village chef, has been arrested multiple times for exposing himself to at least a half dozen women.
Frank's extensive rap sheet includes public lewdness arrests in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens -- spanning almost two decades.
The Crown Heights man's repeat offenses drew little notice until the early morning of Feb. 23.
Sometime around 2 a.m., a woman who had fallen asleep on the R train on her way home from work awoke to the sight of Frank masturbating in a nearby seat.
She screamed, and Frank blasted her in the face with pepper spray. Then he pulled out a knife, authorities say. The pair tussled on the train before spilling out onto the platform at the 36th St. station in Sunset Park.
Incredibly, the 42-year-old victim wrestled away control of the knife and stabbed Frank in the arm and chest. The woman suffered cuts on her hands that required 15 stitches.
This time, Frank likely won't get off with only a brief jail stint. He's facing a top charge of attempted murder. "I want him to be off the streets," the victim's sister said last week. "I don't want this to happen to another person. It could have been a child."
The most recent known subway pervert incident took place on Feb. 28.
A 39-year-old Brooklyn woman was riding a packed Manhattan-bound 7 train when she felt something warm touching her inner thigh.
She looked down and saw a middle-aged man immediately recoil, leaving behind a wet residue not far from her crotch. The assailant was short, about 5-feet-5, with a slight build and a salt and pepper goatee.
The woman berated him on the train but was stunned that no one except an elderly woman came to her aid.
The victim snapped a crystal-clear photo of the man and showed it to an NYPD cop. The officer told her that another woman had reported the same guy the day before.
The authorities are testing the substance to determine if it's semen, saliva or something else.
"This creep's going to get caught. His face is everywhere now," the woman told The News. "They'll catch him.
They'll arrest him. He'll go to jail. But that doesn't solve anything. When he gets out in 60 days, it'll be same old same old. It's like an itch you can't scratch."
With Rocco Parascandola