Hundreds of Valley residents attended a community meeting Wednesday night in Phoenix to learn what police are doing to hunt down a serial rapist and a serial shooter. The men, women and children — many of whom held wanted posters of the socalled Baseline Rapist — filled the auditorium at the Loma Linda School and overflowed into the cafeteria.
Police are offering $100,000 for information on the rapist, who is being linked to six deaths, and a serial shooter linked to five murders.
The meeting came a day after police and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon held a news conference where they announced the reward and asked residents with information to call Silent Witness.
Police Chief Jack Harris told the crowd it’s not easy to find two criminals in a Valley of 3 million people.
He asked residents to continue to help. “We need to rally all of you to be the eyes and ears for us,” Harris said.
Gordon assured the crowd that police are being given all the resources they need.
The shootings date back to May 2005, and after Wednesday’s meeting, Gordon defended Harris’ decision to hold off on talking to the public until this week.
“There’s a balance between letting the public know and tipping off the criminals that you’re on to them,” Gordon said.
Police told residents precautions they could take at night — such as being aware of surroundings and not going out alone. Later, residents were able to talk with task force officers.
Deborah Alvarado, who has two children at Loma Linda School, asked police what they can do to learn self-defense. She said she was directed to have her children look into martial arts classes.
Some residents commented on how the crimes have created an atmosphere of fear.
Valerie Scott, who lives in central Phoenix, said she now stays in after 8 p.m.
However, others aren’t letting criminals control them.
Susan Wise, who lives in Phoenix, said she still walks her dog at night. Wise’s mother, Carolyn Mitchell, also said she doesn’t live in fear. “I’m just a little cautious,” she said.
- Tribune writer Dennis Welch contributed to this report.