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Suburban mother had eventful start

Essdras M Suarez/Globe StaffMBTA Officers Tracey O'Leary and Tim Ingersoll arrested a man at the Downtown Crossing Station on Thursday. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)

By Megan Woolhouse

Globe Staff / August 30, 2008

Tracey O'Leary's new police uniform was barely wrinkled when she made her first arrest this week.

The 39-year-old suburban mother, who took a job with the transit police on a lark, arrested a man on charges of indecent assault during her first day on the job. "It's exciting," said O'Leary, who blushed at the media attention her arrest garnered yesterday.
"I really helped somebody," she said. "That's why I'm here."
The arrest was made Thursday just under five hours on the job, before O'Leary and her partner, field training Officer Tim Ingersoll, had gone to lunch. The pair were above ground in a patrol car when they were dispatched to the Downtown Crossing subway station, where a woman told subway personnel she had been groped by a passenger on the Orange Line.
The MBTA has faced a spate of sexual assaults in recent months, enough to make it launch "Sexual Assault Awareness Month" last April as a way to encourage riders to report unwanted or unlawful sexual advances aboard trains. Officials said they wanted women to feel comfortable coming forward. A spokesman for the MBTA did not release the number of sexual assault arrests transit officers have made this year.
According to O'Leary's police report, "the victim felt someone touching her buttocks" between the Chinatown and Downtown Crossing stops. When the woman looked at the suspect, he hid behind what looked like a laptop computer. Then he grabbed her again. Subway officials stopped the train when the woman alerted them to the problem.
O'Leary said yesterday that the woman, who was irate and "not having any of it," was determined to see the suspect arrested. She approached O'Leary and told her what happened.
"I think it may have been because I'm a woman," O'Leary said.
The victim pointed out her alleged assailant and O'Leary handcuffed him. She said he went into custody quietly. Transit police identified the man as 37-year-old Alexandre L. Dossantos of Winthrop.
He was arraigned yesterday in Boston Municipal Court on charges of indecent assault and battery. A spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office said Dossantos pleaded not guilty. Police also said that during the booking process, they discovered Dossantos was in possession of a forged or altered passport.
O'Leary said yesterday that after years of working in sales and as a stay-at-home mother, she decided to pursue a job in law enforcement. She said she took the civil service exam on a whim with a friend. When an opening came up with the transit police a year-and-a-half later, she took it. O'Leary ended her shift around 2 p.m. Thursday and called her husband of 10 years on her way home to Salem. Her children wanted to know whether she used her handcuffs.
Ingersoll looked at O'Leary yesterday like a proud parent.
"I think she's going to make a great cop," he said. "But this is only the beginning."
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