Neighbor response to string of sexual assaults: 'I've got 5 locks on my door'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Neighbors in three areas of east Bakersfield are taking more precautions after a series of sexual assaults in their part of town. Police are also concentrating their efforts as the hunt continues for the suspect. Four women have been attacked in three different apartment complexes.

One of those attacks was in the 4300 block of Columbus Street, and that's where Cruz lives with her two children. Cruz is her first name, and she spoke to Eyewitness News on condition that her last name not be used.

"There was a lady that was raped, next apartment complex down," she said on Friday.

Cruz showed a reporter the extra safety effort she's making. The front door has five different locks, and she uses them all.

"I usually just keep it locked, maybe with one lock," Cruz said. "But, I lock them all now."

Her sister chimed in that the five locks are in place both day and night.

Police and Kern County Sheriff's deputies have teamed up with a special joint task force to investigate the string of sexual assaults. And, on Friday afternoon, a police crime prevention unit was passing out fliers in the area of Oswell and Columbus.

The attack on Columbus happened on July 18. Police say a suspect forced his way into an apartment, where he bound and sexually assaulted a woman, then stole some things and took off.

On Aug. 1 there was a similar incident at 2901 Virginia Ave. It also happened very early in the morning, and the suspect forced his way into an apartment where he tied up four victims, and sexually assaulted two women.

Investigators believe it was the same suspect who attacked a woman on Aug. 19 in the 200 block of Quantico Ave. In that incident, a child and woman were tied up, and the woman was then raped.

On Quantico, apartment tenants met with complex managers and police on Thursday night. Residents offered ideas for safety improvements, and Joe Torrez asked about a fence at the back of the complex.

"People just come in and out, day and night," he complained.

By Friday morning, apartment maintenance crews were seen working near that fence.

Complex spokesman Rick Sprague told Eyewitness News the fence has been an ongoing problem. He said residents suggested improvements like a stronger fence, security cameras for the complex, or even things like peep holes and door and window sensors. Sprague said the company is considering the ideas.

Near that Quantico complex, a corner market had police fliers up. And neighbors told Eyewitness News they've seen more police presence since the assault, and they think that's great. They worry the suspect is someone who knows the area.

Investigators say the suspect is described as a black man, in his late 20s to 30s. He's reported to be about six feet tall with medium build. The suspect was seen wearing a black ski mask and dark hooded sweatshirt during the assaults.

In the most recent crime, the suspect had a handgun. Police say he should be considered armed and dangerous. Investigators have set up a special hot line for this case (661) 852-7800.

Bakersfield Police tell Eyewitness News they are getting tips on this case, which are being followed up on. And they hope for more information from the public. Officers also ask that any suspicious activity is reported. And, they stress safety and taking precautions.

Neighbors say they are certainly doing that.

"I've got my own safety tips," Cruz said from the door of her apartment on Columbus. "Make sure everything's locked up tight, closed tight."