Fayetteville holds special meeting on police handling of rape cases
Posted January 19, 2010 7:01 a.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2010 7:46 a.m. EST
Fayetteville, N.C. — The Fayetteville City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to review how the Fayetteville Police Department handled its investigation into a series of burglaries and sexual assaults in recent months.
"We are committed to finding out what happened that contributed to the breakdown in communication that left the council and the citizens uninformed on these recent trends,” Mayor Tony Chavonne said.
Six women in Fayetteville and a seventh in Hope Mills have been sexually assaulted since late June by a man who broke into their homes – usually apartments – late at night while they were home alone, according to police reports. In an eighth case, a burglar tried to sexually assault a Fayetteville woman before fleeing.
Police said they notified neighbors after each attack, but they didn't publicly connect the cases until Jan. 11, when they announced the formation of a task force to investigate the crimes and urged women to be vigilant.
Two women who live on Glenwick Drive, where the first two attacks occurred in June, said police never told them about the rapes. Officers conducted a community meeting about a month after the assaults only to warn of recent crimes, the women said.
"They were still not forthcoming about the rapes," one woman said angrily. "(They said) that there was an assault and break-in (and) 'You've got to be careful.' They didn't even tell us that the girl had gotten raped."
"I think we should have known as soon as it happened,” her neighbor said.
Police Chief Tom Bergamine has defended his department's delay in notifying the public about the attacks, saying investigators needed time to connect the dots to determine if the cases were related. He and other police officials said they also wanted to protect the victims' privacy and avoid unduly alarming the public.
The City Council will meet at 5 p.m. at City Hall.