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Durham Police Unit Focused On Solving Sexual Assault Cases

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DURHAM, N.C. — So far this year, there have been more than 60 sexual assaults reported in Durham. Police are especially concerned about eight sexual assaults clustered in one part of the city.

Durham police are working to stop the trend.

One woman was assaulted in a lingerie store, one victim was sleeping in her home and another woman was attacked while walking down the street. At first glance, the cases may not appear to have anything in common, but now police have formed a sexual assault task force to look for any kind of link.

"[We're] looking for traits, similarities, tendencies, things that were said, things that were done, that sort of thing," said Sgt. Anthony Marsh of he Durham Police Department.

The cases that the task force are focusing on span nine months. The first sexual assault happened in January; the most recent case happened two weeks ago on Wilkerson Avenue.

Investigators are concentrating on eight cases that all happened in the western part of the city.

"Like most predators, generally speaking, they have an area where they go out and it's their territory where they go hunting," said Cpl. R.C. Spivey of the Durham Police Department.

In the three weeks since the task force has been together, the unit has arrested Lawrence Hawes.

Hawes, 36, was charged with raping a woman in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood on March 7 and he may be tied to other unsolved cases in west Durham.

Each of the six task force members, who come from various units, brings a different perspective to the table.

"We have a patrol officer who works that area and is familiar with the neighborhood, the streets, the layout, the the alleyways, that sort of thing," Marsh said.

Investigators hope the task force will serve as a model, and once the eight cases are solved, will continue on a permament basis.

Currently, no other major police department in the area has a unit dedicated solely to investigating to sexual assaults.


Julia Lewis, Reporter
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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