Women taking precautions after string of sexual assaults

A string of sexual assaults in East and Northwest Austin has women on high alert.

Police are investigating two series of sexual assaults; five cases in East Austin involved joggers. There are six more cases in Northwest Austin and a possible attack in Cedar Park.

Women throughout the city are making changes to their normal exercise routine in fear that a predator could attack at any moment.

“I just don't jog at night or during dusk. I try to stay out when it's a busy hour and its light and bright outside and I know there are a lot of other people on trails,” said jogger Melissa Huisman.

“I like to go in the morning, but I've been kind of changing to around 3:00 p.m. when I know people get off work and I can start running then. I just like to be safe,” jogger Lindsay Ankashima said.

Police are searching for a suspect who could be responsible for 10 sexual assaults in the capital city.

“My sister's new to the city, so I was telling her to maybe not go out alone and bring somebody with her just in case and don't go at certain hours, like late at night and stuff like that,” said Alicia Danze who frequents the hike-and-bike trail in East Austin.

So far, police are not sure whether all the cases are linked, but said there are similarities in each case.

The most recent report on Friday (February 12) in broad daylight involved a woman who had a baby and her two dogs with her.

“It's definitely not comforting, but I feel like common sense, staying out in daylight, running if you see something suspicious, turning directions or running the other way… I feel like generally I'm not super worried about it, but it's something to be mindful of for sure,” said Huisman.

The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic man about 5’8” wearing a black shirt, black pants and a black cap. Because several of the victims were joggers, women on local trails are coming up with a plan in case they are targeted.

“I would run as fast as I could and make a lot of noise and hopefully I would be okay,” Ankashima said.

Other women said they don't want to let a criminal take away their freedom.

“You don't want to jump to the conclusion that everybody's a predator either. You want to still go out and enjoy yourself,” said Danze.

Police did give some suggestions on how to prevent an attack: Take a friend when exercising, let someone know what route you will be taking, walk in well lit, populated areas, pay attention to surroundings and call 9-1-1 if you see someone suspicious.

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