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NYPD Makes Arrest In Alleged Sexual Assault Near FDR Drive, Searches For Person Of Interest In Attack On Woman In Central Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD provided an update Thursday afternoon on two sexual assaults that happened earlier in the morning.

The first took place in Central Park, where a female jogger was allegedly knocked to the ground and attacked. An image of a suspect was later released.

The second incident reportedly happened not too long after at 103rd Street near the FDR Drive, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported.

Police said it does not appear the attacks are related.

"At this time we will just say that we have two separate sexual assaults, but we're not saying that the MOs are similar, no. We're just saying we have two separate assaults and we are investigating both, but we are exploring all angles at this time," NYPD Inspector Michael King said.

WATCH: NYPD Releases Image Of Suspect In Central Park Sexual Assault

Police spent the day along a taped-off path close to the pond and Central Park South, not far from busy Center Drive and the Wollman Rink, searching for evidence. It's where a woman in her 20s was jogging at around 7:20 a.m. Police said she was knocked to the ground, choked and then sexually assaulted, briefly losing consciousness.

The victim was able to leave the area and flag some people down to call 911. She was taken to a local hospital.

About 45 minutes after the Central Park attack, there was another report of a sexual assault near the FDR. Sources said 38-year-old Howard Shaw was arrested. He has two prior arrests for rape and robbery and was just released two days ago.

Police were checking for video related to the two attacks. There are cameras around the border of Central Park.

The NYPD put up posters in the area of the park where the attack happened and searched for tips as people continued jogging and walking nearby.

CBS2 spoke to alarmed women who frequent the park.

"I was just walking through this way yesterday, shooting pictures of birds," Caren Caty said. "It's very shocking that it happened here."

"You would think that in the morning you would be safer when it's daylight," another woman said.

"I wish I could go wherever in the park that I wanted, but clearly you can't," jogger Mary Nink said.

"That's horrible and terrifying. It definitely does make me think twice about coming in here when I'm not surrounded by a lot of other people. But then again, it's New York and scary things, you're always hearing about scary things happening," Hannah Tax added.

Rapes in New York City are up 2.5% since last year. At this time in 2020, there had been two rapes in Central Park. This year, there have been six, CBS2's Cory James reported. It's a hard reality for those who enjoy taking in the popular spot, which had an increased police presence as investigators worked throughout the night.

"The only reason I'm here is because there's lots of other people here," said Rosanne Penoyer of the Upper West Side.

"Stay away from dark places. Stay where it's populated," added Joseph Asibay of Hell's Kitchen.

Police said they'll be out Friday morning at around the same time of Thursday's crime to try to further the investigation.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via their website or via DM on Twitter, @NYPDTips. All calls are kept confidential.

CBS2's Cory James contributed to this report.

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