West Side on alert as rapists remains at large

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With a pair of suspects responsible for a string of violent assaults against multiple women still on the loose, West Side youth program coordinator Shaun Kelly is taking every precaution to ensure she doesn’t become the latest victim.

With a pair of suspects responsible for a string of violent assaults against multiple women still on the loose, West Side youth program coordinator Shaun Kelly is taking every precaution to ensure she doesn’t become the latest victim.

“I make sure I’m accompanied by someone when I leave for the evening,” said Kelly, who works at the Peace Corner Youth Center, 5022 W. Madison St. “And I always have my car keys between my fingers. I think those police cameras should be put to good use.”

According to Harrison Area police, as many as eight women have been robbed and assaulted in the Austin community on the West Side between Aug. 28 and as recent as early October.

The assaults have taken place between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., when the victims have been alone and isolated from populated areas, police said. The reported attacks have taken place in the 1100 block of North Lawndale; 8000 block of North Harding; 4700 block of West Maypole; 3800 block of West Monroe; 2200 block of West Monroe; 5500 block of West End; the 600 block of North Leamington; and the 900 block of North Leamington.

Police said the offenders – described as African American, one of which is in his 20s to 30s, 5-foot-5 to 6-feet tall, and between 130 to 170 pounds, wearing a black cap, black jacket and black jeans – worked in tandem brandishing guns as women were walking down the street or near their homes.

“I don’t feel good about this at all,” said Sahara Corbitt, who has since taken self-defense classes after one woman was attacked near her West Monroe residence.

Chicago Guardian Angels chapter leader Miguel Fuentes, who wanted to help conduct a self-defense class for those interested, said individuals should always be aware of their surroundings when out.

“People should turn their headphones off when walking, keep keys in their hands and make sure they walk in pairs or groups,” Fuentes said.

In the event an assailant attempts to execute an attack, it is recommended that the person make as much noise as possible to draw attention to the situation in the hopes a third party will intervene.

“The person should use any means possible to fend off their attacker by scratching, punching or kicking,” he said.

Also in response to the events, several West Side aldermen along with Chicago Alternative Police Strategies recently walked neighborhoods distributing flyers and even held a meeting at Pleasant Ridge M.B. Church at 116 S. Central Ave. last Thursday to alert female residents to the danger.

The meeting, attended by Aldermen Deborah Graham (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th), focused on the habits of the predator and how residents could protect themselves.

Mitts vowed to continue coordinating with other elected officials and others. She was not available for further comment to the Defender after the community meeting, but she issued a statement through a public relations firm indicating what measures she has taken to inform the public about the recent assaults and what she is doing “to get to the bottom of several recent and disturbing incidents.”

“These attacks clearly illustrate that there must be a serious commitment on the part of the community and the Chicago police to promote a culture of mutual cooperation, understanding and communication between West Side residents and the officers on the street this fall,” according to Mitt’s statement.

Graham is hoping the perpetrators, who are believed to target women to fondle them and acquire money with the intention of buying drugs, will be in police custody soon.

“Hopefully the police will capture these men so they won’t be able to terrorize women on the West Side of Chicago,” Graham told the Defender. “Hopefully they get caught and brought to justice.”

South Austin Coalition community leader Elce Redmond said it is vitally important that residents continue to keep “the issue in the media” until those responsible for the crimes are apprehended.

Redmond has taken it upon himself to also hand out rape alert flyers throughout the community to make sure residents stay aware after being displeased about what he believed had been a slow police response.

No arrests have been made as police are continuing its investigation, authorities said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Harrison Area Detectives at (312) 746-8253.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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