The best weapon to combat the string of sexual assaults along Hambrick Road is not a gun, a knife, or even pepper spray.
Communication, both police and residents believe, is the best way to help catch a serial rapist who is responsible for at least three sexual assaults in the area. The suspect may be linked to three others, said Lt. K.D. Johnson of the DeKalb County Police Special Victims Unit.
Police believe the man has committed as many as six sexual assaults at the Ashgrove and Liberty Landing apartment complexes on Hambrick Road, between Memorial Drive and Rockbridge Road.
“The biggest thing is that the neighbors need to know each other,” Johnson said. “They can help each other and help us by talking to each other.”
On two occasions, Johnson said, residents saw the suspect hanging out in one of the complexes and no one called 911.
Johnson and other members of the DeKalb Police Department shared information with residents at a meeting at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church on Dec. 8. More than 50 residents attended.
“They answered a lot of questions, and it was a good thing for the community to come together like this,” said Jacqueline Baresi, 26, who lives at Liberty Landing. “But there has to be more people in the complex wanting to do something about it. People need to be more pro-active.”
Baresi is a single mother of two whose boyfriend works at night, and is concerned she may be a target. According to Johnson, the victims have been between 17 and 64 years old. One victim had children in the home at the time of the attack, but the others were home alone.
“One of the rapes happened in our apartment complex and nobody knows anything,” Baresi said. “I’ve talked to people and nobody heard or saw anything. That’s really scary. It’s not good at all.”
The assaults happened between September and Nov. 28, Johnson said. Police have beefed up patrols in the area with cruiser and foot patrols.
“We’ve tried to get neighbors together but people are afraid of each other,” said a resident of Ashgrove who asked not to be identified. The woman said she has recently changed her phone number to a private number because of the attacks.
Police believe the suspect is between 5-feet-8 and 6-1, weighing between 165 and 185 pounds, is muscular and clean shaven. He has worn dark clothing during all of the attacks and pulls a T-shirt over his face to hide his identity. All of the attacks have happened between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., usually in or near an area that is not well lit, Johnson said.
Johnson said police are checking sex offenders in the area. Also, police have sent DNA samples to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab and are awaiting the results.
Meanwhile, residents are trying to take measures to protect themselves from any other attacks.
Phyllis Miller, with the DeKalb County Rape Crisis Center, attended the meeting and gave residents tips for protecting themselves.
“Too many people have their homes dark,” said Miller, who said her office has handled 26 rape cases county-wide since September. “Let’s light up the neighborhood. He won’t go to places that are well lit.”
She also encouraged residents to be mindful of their environment.
“Do more in terms of your surroundings, turn the lights on, lock the doors,” Miller said. “You’d be surprised how many people still don’t lock their doors in this day and time. If you have alarm systems, use them.”
Residents are concerned that there has not been enough police presence in the area since the attacks began, but Johnson told the crowd that just because police are not seen does not mean they are not present.
Johnson also encouraged residents to speak with apartment management with any concerns they may have about safety issues.
Residents are encouraged to call the Hambrick Road Tip Line at (770) 724-7499 with any information that may be helpful to the police.