By Beth Defalco and Aaron Morrison Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. — Police raided a New Jersey public housing complex today where officials say a 7-year-old girl was gang raped, and arrested 27 people on outstanding warrants.
Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer said the pre-dawn sweep of Rowan Towers was planned before the girl’s attack. He said police hope the arrests will lead to tips that help them find those who assaulted the girl; otherwise the arrests were unrelated to the case.
“This is only the beginning,” Palmer said. “We’re not going to rest until that area is cleaned up so that decent people can live without the threat of fear and violence.”
Police say the child’s 15-year-old stepsister sold her to have sex with as many as seven men and boys at a party Sunday in a vacant apartment near their home. The stepsister was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault, promoting prostitution and other crimes.
The teen’s name was not released because of her age, but the county prosecutor plans to ask the court to try her as an adult.
Police believe as many as a dozen people were at the party and say everyone in the apartment when the rape occurred could be legally culpable. There were security cameras at the complex and police said they were reviewing all available building surveillance videos.
Many of those arrested today were women. They told The Associated Press the warrants were for minor infractions. Police did not immediately return calls for further details.
Residents said the alleged assault Sunday was clearly at the forefront of police officers’ agenda during the raid.
Tair Rivers, 27, said officers yelled “What happened to the little girl?” as they arrested her and other women.
Rivers lives in 13-H, an apartment right across from 13-C where the party occurred. She said she was not home over the weekend, but would have no hesitation telling police if she knew something.
“We all got kids,” Rivers said. “If we knew something we would tell.”
According to police, the teenager and the 7-year-old were outside in the neighborhood Sunday when the older girl ran into two young men she knew who invited her to the party. The 7-year-old wanted to tag along because she was worried about the older girl’s safety.
At the party, the 15-year-old starting having sex with several men for money and then gave the younger girl some cash to let a group of men touch her as she looked on, police say. It soon escalated to rape and the men threatened to kill the child if she screamed or told anyone, according to police.
The child later put on her clothes and left the apartment; her sister stayed. Two women found the child crying outside the apartment and walked her home.
Interstate Realty Management Co., which manages the 15-story building, says about 150 people live there, and many of the apartments are vacant.