Police have arrested a man they say allegedly choked a woman unconscious and then raped her inside Central Park on Thursday. The arrest comes as the number of reported rapes has risen inside the 843-acre park so far this year.

Paulie Velez, 25, was arrested early Saturday morning and faces numerous charges including rape, assault, robbery, and criminal possession of stolen property. Police say Velez, who is homeless, approached the 27-year-old victim from behind near a walking path by Swan Lake and Center Drive at around 7 a.m. on Thursday, allegedly choking her until she fainted before sexually assaulting her. The victim came to and asked a passerby for help, according to police. The victim was rushed to an area hospital where she was listed in stable condition.

Police released surveillance video capturing Velez exiting a subway station on the N and R subway line, and later at a store near Times Square. According to WABC-TV, the man was at the store trying to sell the victim's cell phone, but the clerk refused.

Following the incident inside the park, police increased patrols.

Roughly 45 minutes after police responded to the rape, officers received another report of an attempted rape near the footbridge at 103rd Street and the FDR Drive. Police ruled out Velez as a suspect in that attack after arresting a 38-year-old man in that incident.

Velez’s arrest comes amid an increase in the number of reported rapes inside the park. Crime statistics show six rape cases inside the park were reported to police so far this year, compared to two around the same time a year ago.

In the last few weeks, the NYPD has faced intense scrutiny over the way it investigates rape cases. Last year, 59% of rape cases reported in 2020 went unsolved, the highest rate since the department began to publicly disclose that data in 2018. At the same time, the number of reported rape cases decreased from 1,794 in 2018 to 1,427 in 2020, according to police statistics released during a City Council hearing evaluating the success rate of the NYPD's Special Victims Division.

Deputy Inspector Michael King, head of the Special Victims Division, testified at the hearing that cases tend to break apart if investigators are unable to prove that force was used or if a complainant declines proceed with the case.

“It comes down to a lot of different variables with the cases," King said. "It’s very difficult to pinpoint just one reason why.”

Editor's Note: The article was updated to clarify King's testimony.