Person of interest in custody for series of North Side sexual assaults

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Detectives are questioning a person of interest in connection with a series of sexual assaults on the North Side this month.

Chicago Police issued a community alert this week about the attacks, which have seen women approached from behind by an unknown man as they return home during the early morning hours.

Assaults happened about 1:40 a.m. Aug. 20 in the 900 block of West Belden; 12:25 a.m. Aug. 15 in the 100 block of West Goethe; and 3:45 a.m. Aug. 9 in the 1900 block of North Bissell.

As of Friday afternoon, Area Central detectives were questioning a person of interest about the assaults, but no charges were pending.

“The Chicago Police Department deserves our sincere thanks for their diligence in pursuing this case and apprehending a suspect,” 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith said in a statement. “As a community, we are incredibly thankful this suspect is off the streets. We will be following this case in our Court Advocacy Program to make sure the community’s voice is heard.

In the Aug. 9 and Aug. 20 incidents, the suspect grabbed the woman and assaulted her, police said. On Aug. 15, the victim was able to fight off the attacker.

In the two most recent attacks, the victims were in the entryway of their home when they were attacked, police said.

Thursday’s incident on Belden happened on DePaul University’s campus, police said. In that incident, a 21-year-old woman was knocked to the ground, then sexually assaulted her. She was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in good condition.

The suspect in all three attacks was described as a male with olive skin, possibly a white Hispanic, between 25 and 45 years old, standing between 5-feet-5 and 5-feet-9 and weighing between 160 and 180 pounds, police said. He has dark-colored short hair and was last seen wearing a dark-colored and white horizontally striped short sleeved polo shirt and jeans cuffed at the bottom.

Police released a video surveillance photo following the latest attack.

“Incidents like this remind us we must empower ourselves and our neighbors to take all possible actions to stay safe,” Smith’s statement said. “In coming weeks, my office will be hosting a community-wide meeting to continue this very important safety discussion.”

Smith was initially critical that the alert was not sent out until after the the third attack because the crimes happened in two wards.

She said talks are continuing with police “to modify the way aldermen and the community receive important public safety updates. Crime is not limited by ward boundaries.”

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