Police, D.A.: Don’t hesitate to call 911

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Managing Editor

Like local law enforcement officers, Mark Fuller, district attorney for the 12th Judicial District of Alabama, is concerned for the safety of young women in Pike County, particularly those in college, due to alleged attacks that have recently occurred.

Though Fuller could not comment on any cases taken to the Grand Jury, he said that he has been working with law enforcement on more than one case in which one or more suspects have allegedly victimized young women in the area.

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"We have definitely seen a pattern of this type of crime in recent months," he said. "This usually occurs when a young woman has let a stranger into her home or has willingly left in a vehicle with a stranger who, once alone with the victim, changed his friendly demeanor and became menacing or threatening."

Fuller said his primary concern is to seek to use all the power of the law to prosecute the alleged offender or offenders based on the results of a police investigation.

"My primary responsibility is to put criminals behind bars," he said. "But if encouraging young women to lock their doors and to refuse to allow strangers into their homes helps keep young women of the community safe, then I feel it is my obligation to share information with the community."

Fuller said he has handled cases of this sort in the past and has a great concern for what he has seen.

"Young women away from home and parental supervision have, from what I have seen, been vulnerable to strangers who are claiming to need help," he said. "They are more inclined to let people they don’t know into their homes, apartments or dorm rooms and they become very susceptible to predators by doing this."

Fuller said recent instances of alleged attacks in Pike County and a rash of incidents in Montgomery that seem to be unrelated have caused him grave concern.

"Whether someone knocks on your door and says the police or others are after them or whether or not they say they have car trouble and need you to give them a ride, the right thing to do is to call the police or the sheriff to come check it out," he said. "In the college culture, we often hear concerns people have about calling police because alcohol may be involved. Rest assured, this office is more interested in protecting people who may be drinking and find themselves in jeopardy rather than prosecuting them.

"Every one should obey the law and we expect them to do so. But no one should ever let something like this deter their calling 911 in times when they suspect they may be in danger."

On Tuesday, police said they were continuing their investigation into the alleged incidents and are hopeful that an arrest will be forthcoming.

"We are thoroughly investigating the issue," said Troy Police Department public information officer Sgt. Benny Scarbrough. "We plan to gather evidence and to seek to bring the person or persons who have been preying on these young women to trial."

Scarbrough did not say how many incidents have been reported to Troy Police, but he did say detectives are working "more than one" case of this nature.

In at least two of the reported incidents, a male knocked on a door to a residence and claimed to need assistance from a young female resident. Each time the woman or women agreed to give the suspect a ride somewhere.

"And our reports indicate that he then, in some way, said he wanted sex or money from the victims," Scarbrough said. "When a young women is alone with someone like this and hears these statements, they either are or appear to be threats made to someone who’s virtually defenseless."

In the latest reported incident, no one was harmed, Scarbrough said.

"But that’s not the case in at least one of the incidents," he said.

Scarbrough Troy Police and the District Attorney’s office are working together on each of alleged incidents.

"We do have a suspect," Scarbrough said. "In the meantime, we encourage people to be sensitive to this information to ensure that they don’t become the next victims of a person like this."