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Calming Fears

Police provide tips for staying safe until a serial predator in Reston is captured.

Police urged about 90 people at a community meeting last week to report suspicious behavior along North Shore Drive to help capture a serial predator loose in Reston.

“I need you to report anything you see. You all are the eyes and ears of this community,” said Lt. Chris Marsh of the Reston District Station. “Do not hesitate to give us a call.”

During a two-week span, from Sept. 14 to Sept. 27, five females ranging from ages 17 to 30 were attacked at knifepoint along a half-mile stretch along North Shore Drive. All but one managed to escape unharmed.

The police tried to assuage growing community anxiety Tuesday, Oct. 3 at an ad hoc meeting organized by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).

“I live in the community,” said Hudgins, who addressed the large crowd, comprised mostly of women. “North Shore Drive is my walking path.”

But the disadvantage of the trails and other area amenities, Hudgins said, is that people “use that to prey on us.”

POLICE ASSURED the crowd that investigators have committed as many resources as possible to catch the attacker.

“This is a priority case for us,” said Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer, who lives in Reston. “I have full confidence in the men and women of this district.”

“We are out there with some cutting-edge technology,” said Marsh, who outlined similarities in all five cases:

* They occurred at dusk or at night, when it’s difficult to see.

* The attacker targets women by themselves.

* The attacker brandishes a knife.

* The attacker attempts to abduct the women

“He did approach one woman who had a dog with her,” said Marsh.

Others wondered if the case had been linked to the Reston serial rapist, who terrorized the area in the late 1990s but was never caught. “There is nothing that ties this case to the Reston rapist in the past,” said Marsh.

DESPITE POLICE EFFORTS, some residents said more could be done.

“I’m surprised it’s not publicized more,” said Cheryl Luczko, who lives in nearby Governors Square cluster. “Is there any way we can improve community awareness? I just wish there were more posting out.”

Marsh said the police, who have distributed 1,300 flyers to neighborhoods along North Shore Drive, will continue outreach efforts.

“I’m glad the police department is doing its utmost to apprehend this person to keep the community as safe as we would like it to be,” Gloria Michau, a resident of Inland Court, said in an interview after the meeting. “I’ve seen an increase in police presence.”

During the meeting, Michau asked if the suspect has used the knife.

“He has never touched the blade to anybody,” said Marsh. “But do not let prior actions lull you into a false sense of security.”

THE QUESTION sparked a series of inquiries about how to stay safe. One woman asked Marsh about the use of pepper spray or mace. “Do not rely on those please,” said Marsh.

Marsh and other police officers referred to a handout listing “safety tips” that was distributed at the meeting. (See "Police Safety Tips" box.)

Several residents complained about a lack of lighting in the area, particularly on pathways, tot lots and parks.