A man who police said could be the Chandler Rapist broke into a residence Thursday morning and attacked a 15-year-old girl who was home with two younger siblings.
The incident came at a time when the Chandler Police Department was not dedicating as many officers to the Chandler Rapist task force, which earlier involved as many as 20 to 30 detectives and officers. The series of attacks started June 4, 2006.
Sgt. Rick Griner, police spokesman, said at least four detectives are currently assigned to the case and surveillance that used to be regular had become intermittent.
He said fewer incoming tips have reduced the need for officers assigned to the case.
“As time goes on and we don’t have the attacks, and as other cases and calls for service come up, we have to take care of what’s at hand,” Griner said. “We have not put this on the back burner by any means.”
Police said Thursday’s victim was not “sexually assaulted” — a legal term police use to describe rape. However, Griner said the intruder “contacted” the victim.
He refused to say whether this meant the girl was touched in a sexual manner.
Griner said police are withholding attack details because they don’t want the at-large predator to learn what investigators know.
Police said the intruder somehow got into the girl’s home in the 1600 block of West Temple Street just after 6 a.m. when her father had already left for work and the children were still sleeping. The teenage victim called 911.
“We were able to get units in here quickly,” Griner said.
But a manhunt came up empty Thursday morning for the intruder, who fit the description and acted similarly to the serial rapist who has sexually assaulted five young girls in Chandler.
Police ended their search of the neighborhood at 8:35 a.m.
Because the attacker was still at large, Seton Catholic High School in Chandler did not open Thursday.
Andersen Junior High and Elementary schools in the Chandler Unified School District remained on alert.
“Even my grandchildren, who don’t know what rape is, are scared,” said Patricia Green, a neighbor who lives near the crime scene with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
Green said a single father lives in the home where the girl was attacked.
“I feel bad because we should have been more aware,” she said.
Green said a long-term construction project down the street just ended three or four weeks ago.
Based on witness reports from previous attacks, police have said the Chandler Rapist may work in the construction industry.
The man is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 8 inches tall, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.
Helicopters swooped over the area Thursday morning.
About eight Phoenix Special Assignments Unit officers followed a dog handler and his K-9 into the area.
The last confirmed attack in the case was June 8.
The attacker typically strikes early in the morning against teenage girls living in single-parent homes, although the most recent attack this summer occurred at night while the victim’s grandparents sat on the front porch of their mobile home.
Police also believe the man scopes out his victims and cases homes before the attacks.
Tribune writers Nicole Beyer and Mike Branom contributed to this report.