Fayetteville police asked to modify rape reporting policy
Posted January 19, 2010 9:07 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2010 4:41 p.m. EST
Fayetteville, N.C. — The Fayetteville City Council grilled police and called for changes Tuesday concerning its reporting of a series of recent burglaries and sexual assaults.
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.
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.
City Manager Dale Iman was called to defend the handing of the Glenwick Drive attacks during a specially called meeting Tuesday afternoon at City Hall.
“Within 24 hours on Glenwick Drive, you had two rapes investigated or the report taken by the same officer. Why didn't we connect the dots? Why didn't we put a flier out?” Councilman Bill Crisp asked Tuesday.
“What would the flier have said based on what we knew? That we have a black male of average height,” Iman responded.
“A flier would say to the ladies in those neighborhoods that we've had two sexual assaults. Be vigilant. Be on guard. Lock your doors,” Crisp responded.
Last week, Police Chief Tom Bergamine, who took over the department in 2007, also 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.
Iman said Tuesday that officers were also concerned with protecting the victims' privacy and unduly alarming the public.
Deanne Gerdes, executive director of the Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County, agreed.
“I understand the community's wanting to know; however, I think we need to let law enforcement do their job,” Gerdes said.
Others at the meeting acknowledged that sexual assault cases must be handled delicately, but said women should be told to be on alert.
“We have to know what's going on especially as a single woman in this community," Fayetteville resident Jenny Beaver said. "I lock my doors. I keep my alarm on, but you can bet, I keep my alarm on a lot more often now than I did beforehand."
As the meeting drew to a close, council members unanimously disagreed with the police department's current rape notification policy and asked for changes.
“I'm saying the word may bothers me. That we may inform the citizens. I'm saying, I think a better approach is we must inform the citizens,” Crisp said.
Iman was told to revisit the policy and propose modifications during the council's Jan. 25 meeting.
Meanwhile, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin has said that he recently learned that DNA evidence from an Aug. 10 sexual assault in the Lindsey Road area east of Raeford matches evidence from an unsolved sexual assault in Fayetteville.
Other aspects of the Hoke County case also match details of the Fayetteville attacks, he said.
Anyone with information about the assaults is asked to call Detective J. Rodriguez of the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-433-1856.