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Sexual Assaults in South Loop

A 56-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and held up at gunpoint outside her South Loop home Wednesday night, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) reported.

English: A neighborhood watch sign attached to...
English: A neighborhood watch sign attached to a door. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The assailant apparently approached the victim as she was seated in her car at 14th and Clark streets, in her garage. According to a police report, he pointed a handgun at the woman, ordered her to open her car door and sexually assaulted her. He took her keys, walked into her house and robbed her 54-year-old husband, police said.

The assault is one of many in the South Loop recently, according to crime records.

Sexual assaults in the South Loop increased during 2012. The number of reported sexual assaults nearly doubled from 23 in 2011 to 44 in 2012, according to the CPD website.

CPD Sgt. Kathy Cunningham said the alarming increase in sexual assaults in the South Loop has drawn the attention of the police department. “Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is holding all police commanders responsible for the numbers, so the 1st district commander was called in,” Cunningham said.

Of the 44 sexual assaults last year, only three were random, she said. The rest involved people who knew each other. “Many involved people drinking in dorm rooms or hotels,” Cunningham said.

Educating students about sexual assault is one way the Chicago Police Department hopes to lower the numbers. “We’ve seen that students are very unaware, and we urge them to keep their dorm rooms locked at all times,” Cunningham said. “I urge students not to stay out too late. Late is 1 a.m.”

Parents of students are also concerned about the numbers and parents whose children come to Chicago from out of state are particularly worried, Cunningham said. “I had a father call me from Texas and keep me on the phone for 45 minutes. He interviewed me extensively before he would even allow his daughter to visit.”

CPD Officer Angela Winburn-Wright, who also patrols the South Loop, said it was important for students to be aware of their surroundings. “I know a lot of students are from the suburbs. It’s important to be able to adapt to new environments,” she said.

The CPD hands out flyers with information about sexual assaults. Officers also attend CAPS meetings and urge residents to get involved with community issues.

Residents are growing more concerned about sexual assaults in the area. Former President and Founder of the Greater South Loop Association Jeff Key said Thursday, “As an affluent community, it is a breeding ground for crime.” Key said the most recent sexual assault took place in an upscale area. “It happened after work, in her garage!” he said.

The neighborhood has a watch program to let the community know of crimes occurring in the area. “There is a Prairie District neighborhood watch. They’re a great program. They have helped the police,” Key said.

Tina Feldstein, founder and president of the South Loop Neighborhood Alliance,  said, “Sometimes the neighborhood watch knows more than the police.”

According to police, the assailant who attacked the South Loop woman on Wednesday was described as African American, 30 to 33 years of age, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, approximately 165 pounds, medium complexion and wearing a red and black trim ski cap.

Residents are urged by police to avoid dark, unlit areas in the South Loop such as alleys, parks and vacant lots. Police say it’s safer to walk in groups, never carry extra bags and never pursue an assailant.

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