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Rare, 'Horrific' Stranger Rape Cases Have North Side Women On Edge

By Ariel Cheung | March 14, 2017 5:41am
 Recent rapes reported on the North Side are marked by strikingly rare characteristics, both in the type of attack — sexual assaults committed by an armed stranger — and in the way they have upended the community's sense of security.
Recent rapes reported on the North Side are marked by strikingly rare characteristics, both in the type of attack — sexual assaults committed by an armed stranger — and in the way they have upended the community's sense of security.
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LAKEVIEW — The recent rapes reported on the North Side are marked by strikingly rare characteristics, both in the type of attack — sexual assaults committed by an armed stranger — and in the way they have upended the community's sense of security.

No arrests have been made in three rapes reported between Feb. 28 and Sunday, but police said they are investigating several leads.

In the two Lakeview  cases, a man raped women at gunpoint before robbing them and forcing them into their cars around midnight Feb. 28 and at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, police said.

RELATED: Rape Of Lakeview Woman Forced Into Car Trunk Similar To Earlier Rape: Cops

Police have not confirmed that the Lakeview assaults involve the same attacker.

But if the cases are related, "we have a guy who is a predator, and he was going to look for any opportunity," said Town Hall District Cmdr. Marc Buslik. "The offender was looking for a victim, and he found her."

In the most recent attack, a woman was trying to enter a Lincoln Park home shortly after midnight Sunday when a man walked up, pulled a knife and sexually assaulted her.

The man then took items from the woman and ran off, police said.

That Lincoln Park attacker is likely not tied to the two Lakeview cases, as his description was too lacking in detail to match that of suspects in the two Lakeview attacks, police said.

Only about one in four rapes are committed by a stranger, according to federal studies. Even fewer cases involve a weapon — around 12 percent in 2010.

While Chicago police data doesn't distinguish between sexual assaults involving strangers or perpetrators known to the victim, the city does mirror national statistics when it comes to armed incidents.

Last year, 7 percent of reported sexual assaults or attempts in Chicago involved a weapon, according to city crime data. Of the 110 reported armed rapes or attempts, four took place in the Town Hall District.

The number of sexual assaults in Chicago has remained steady over the last decade, with little change in reported incidents since 2006. The percent of cases involving a weapon has, if anything, decreased slightly, from 13 percent in 2007, although it has largely remained steady.

The Town Hall District has circulated tips for avoiding becoming a crime victim, such as staying on main streets, keeping valuables hidden and avoiding intoxication to an extent that it might lower awareness or mark someone as an easy target.

But victims in the three recent sexual assaults had done nothing that runs afoul of that advice or that would make them more susceptible to an attacker, who appears to be searching for any opportunity to strike, Buslik said.

"It's not just the average robber looking on the street for an opportunity to come to him," Buslik said Monday. "He will wait until you do something that gives him an opening."

Buslik stressed the importance of being aware of the surrounding area when traveling alone, whether that means looking for strangers nearby before getting out of a parked car or walking down the middle of a lighted street to avoid dark sidewalks or alleys.

"If there is anybody out there you don't recognize, wait a few seconds until you know you can make it in safely," Buslik said.

Detectives are examining video surveillance footage from CTA cameras and potential DNA samples, Buslik said. Either could lead them to the attacker or attackers.

Both Lakeview victims described their attacker as a black man in his late 20s or 30s with scruffy facial hair, short black hair and weighing between 150 and 200 pounds.

Between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10, he was wearing tan khakis and a red sweatshirt in one case and, in the Feb. 28 attack, a brown or green sleeveless vest over a black button-down shirt with white markings and dark-colored pants.

The man in the Feb. 28 attack had a mole on his face, police said.

The community is protecting itself in any way it can, including dispatching private security to patrol near the Belmont "L" station, provided by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

Other blocks are paying for their own private security patrols, and the Chicago Cubs committed in January to paying for two more off-duty officers to patrol within Roscoe, Wilton, Racine and Grace on Friday and Saturday nights.

This week, the Cubs added coverage from 10 p.m. Thursdays to 6 a.m. Fridays, and officials expect the patrols to expand to daily coverage once the baseball season is underway.

"We've made a substantial amount of progress in regards to safety, but we're not going to rest," said 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney. "We cannot do enough."

Neighbors are urgently trading self-defense tips on Facebook pages, asking which self-defense weapons are legal on the streets of Chicago and exchanging news about the police investigation of the attacks.

"I'm about to pack up my up my toddler and dogs and head to the burbs myself," one woman wrote in the anti-crime Taking Back Lakeview page. "I don't feel safe anymore. Not even in Lakeview."

Another neighbor said that police were "going door to door" Friday night as part of their investigation.

"I hope someone saw something," she added.

Some continue to press Tunney and the Police Department to add more police officers to the Town Hall District, which covers Lakeview and portions of Uptown, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square and North Center.

The alderman said he joins neighbors in concern about "the horrific nature" of the recent attacks, specifically "the brazenness, the [use of] guns, and the fact that there's just a sense of more violence in the way people are attacked."

He continues to push for more officers in the district and regularly checks on late-night activity in the ward, sizing up the police presence on weekend nights until as late as 4 a.m., he said.

RELATED: Overall Crime In Lakeview Lower Than Expected, But Robberies Jump

Buslik will speak to South Lakeview Neighbors during a Tuesday meeting at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.

Other district officials will speak at the bimonthly community policing meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Olson Auditorium inside Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, 836 W. Wellington Ave. The meeting covers beat 1933, which spans from Belmont to Diversey and Lincoln to Halsted.