August 27th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

Cops Respond to Criticism of NW Portland Sexual Assault Investigation


Some of the comments on our story Wednesday about a series of reported sexual assaults in Northwest Portland had harsh words for the Portland Police.

Several women in the neighborhood have reported they were attacked on the street by a man who forced them to the ground and tried to sexually assault them.

"Why didn't we hear about this until there were 7 attacks!!!???" writes OregonKJ. "We need to figure out where the communication breakdown has been."

"You know, the more I think about it, the angrier I get," writes Dasha. "Seven attacks in two weeks??? Does the Portland Police need an actual rape, or worse, a corpse, to do something about it?"

Detective Mary Wheat, a spokeswoman for the Portland Police, says the letter from a Northwest Portland landlord posted in our original story was wrong on at least one count: there have not been seven attacks.

Wheat declined to say how many attacks there have been, saying only that it was "several" but fewer than seven.

“There have not been seven attacks reported to the police," Wheat says. "We would not have that many attacks out there and not let the public know.”

The police put out a news release about the attacks on Tuesday evening — three-and-a-half weeks after the first attack, Wheat says. The drawing above is a police sketch of the alleged suspect.

The news release (PDF) put out by police also has a slightly different zone for the attacks than the landlord's letter. The cops say the attacks were between Northwest Couch and Marshall, and Northwest 10th and 23rd streets.

Wheat says investigators often struggle with the issue of when to release information to the public, because going public often causes the attacks to cease. Police want to catch suspects, rather than forcing them temporarily underground and leaving them free to attack again.

"When it gets to the point where we know we need to alert the public," Wheat says, "then we always do.”
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