Cops staked out the area in Forest Hills where two women had been raped and were steps away from catching the suspect one night in June before most of the public knew he existed, a police source said.
A foot-chase that night also led to police identifying him from his dropped phone.
Last week, police put out an alert asking for help finding Ibrahima Ragis, who is wanted for two knifepoint sexual assaults around 3 a.m. in late May and a robbery following the same pattern on June 3.
The police source said the incidents took place in the same area along the border of the 112th and 110th precincts.
The two precincts are divided by the Long Island Expressway at the north end of Forest Hills.
The source said police recognized the pattern and had flooded the area in the late-night and early-morning hours in an attempt to catch the suspect.
After the third incident where a witness chased off Ragis before he could rape the woman, police got their chance at catching him.
He attempted a fourth knifepoint robbery late at night in the same area. Police pounced and ran after him, according to the source.
He escaped, but not before dropping the knife had been using, along with his cell phone.
Police hadn’t identified a suspect before that night, the source said, but when they found his phone, they quickly zeroed in on 20-year-old Ragis.
The fourth incident happened some time between the June 3 robbery and when police released his photo to the public on June 6.
Ragis is suspected of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman on May 19 at 3:29 a.m., sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl at 3 a.m. on May 28 and robbing a 22-year-old woman at 2:37 a.m. on June 3.
Police say he’s now most likely in hiding.
Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and entering TIP577.
All calls are strictly confidential.
By Jeremiah Dobruck