Monday, September 16, 2002

SAFETY FIRST

SAFETY FIRST

Posted By on Mon, Sep 16, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Memphis police recorded another sexual assault in the Winchester-Millbranch area of South Memphis last week, bringing the total to 10 incidents in the six area apartment complexes since January. While no suspects have been caught and the perpetrators have not been labeled serial offenders, apartment managers have increased security to ensure their residents' safety. Annette Taylor, who works for the 460-unit Winbranch Apartments, has been holding resident meetings and inspecting the grounds for unwanted visitors. Four of the incidents have occurred in her complex. "Our complex holds police meetings with our residents the second Tuesday of every month," she says. "We also make sure that none of our vacant apartments is left open and warn residents about sleeping with their doors and windows open. When last week's incident occurred, one of the [television] news stations filmed our complex as the site of the incident, and that was wrong. It was the complex across the street, and that has hurt us." Inspector Ray Schwill of the Memphis Police Department's South Precinct says there is not a serial rapist at large. "We don't think one person is doing this. This is the work of maybe several different suspects," he says. "[We have] increased patrols in the complexes and the area, talked with the apartment managers, and met with residents."< Department statistics show this: From January 1st through August 31st, the entire South Precinct, which covers 70 square miles and contains roughly 89,000 residents, reported 10 rapes. Five took place in the apartment complexes. "We don't have that many leads," says Inspector Matt McCann. "The victims have had trouble identifying the suspects because the incidents have happened in the dark, the assailtants have worn a mask, or the victims were told not to look at the suspect."

Lanell Wilder, manager of the Millbranch Park Apartments where two of the incidents occurred, says she has not had a lot of questions from her residents. "Since the police first told us about what was happening, we have had no further conversations," she says. "But we are working on adding more lighting around the premises and have already added more security." In last week's incident at the Winchester Park complex, the assailant forced his way through a door at 2:45 a.m. The victim was awakened by a man holding a knife, who then attacked her. The suspect is described as a black male 17 to 20 years old.

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