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Mapping Sexual Assaults Near NW Branch Trail

Data compiled by Patch shows locations of five sexual assaults on Northwest Branch hiker biker trail since January; police meet to discuss strategy.

Representatives from area law enforcement agencies met yesterday to share information about a which have been plaguing the area along the Northwest Branch Hiker Biker trail near the West Hyattsville Metro Station. They also doubled up on their efforts to alert the public to the incidents along the trail, with officers handing out fliers on foot and through messages beamed on portable LED message boards now stationed on the trail.

"What we want to stress to people, if they do use that trail, is to travel in pairs, do not wear headphones and to observe their surroundings and their environment," said Capt. Stanley Johnson, public information officer for the Maryland National Capital Park Police. "So far we haven't had any real success in narrowing it down to a particular person, but we're still working hard."

Yesterday's meeting, which included the Maryland National Capital Park Police, the Hyattsville City Police Department, the Mount Rainier Police Department and the Prince George's County Police Department, saw investigators try to share with each other as much information as possible about the incidents which occurred in their relative jurisdictions. 

The search for the suspect or suspects responsible for the incidenthas been made slightly more complicated by the fact that the incidents have been spread out between multiple local law enforcement jurisdictions. 

The jurisdictional divisions have also complicated the public release of information about the string of sexual assaults. Public information officers for the various law enforcement agencies involved were, earlier in the week, often not familiar with details of incidents outside of their jurisdictions. 

According to crime data compiled by Patch from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, the Hyattsville City Police Department and the Mount Rainier Police Department there have been five rapes in the vicinity of the trail since late January. 

The combined data provides the clearest timeline of the incidents so far publicly available.

On January 28, according to information from the Mount Rainier Police Department, a woman was walking at 2:40 a.m. through the Queenstown Apartments adjascent to the trail when she was approached by a man brandishing a knife who forced the woman into some bushes where she was sexually assaulted. 

The suspect in that incident was described as a Hispanic man between the ages of 22 and 24, standing 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighing 175 pounds. He was wearing a black hat, blue jeans, and a gray sweatshirt. 

A little more than a month later, on March 12, park police say that a woman was abducted and raped on the trail behind the West Hyattsville Metro Station. Police have released few specific details about that incident aside from a suspect description, listed as a Hispanic man with beige-almond complexion, standing about 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing about 160 pounds. 

Eight days later on March 20, a woman was abducted and taken to a vacant property in the area of the 5600 block of Ager Road where she was then raped, according to information provided by the Hyattsville City Police Department. Unlike the other incidents, however, city police reported the arrest of a suspect in this case on March 22. 

Despite that arrest, another rape occurred exactly a week later on the evening of March 27. On that night, park police said that the victim was walking on the hiker biker trail behind the West Hyattsville Metro Station when she was approached by a Hispanic man and forced at knife point into the woods where she was then raped. 

The suspect in that incident has been described as a Hispanic man in his late 20s or early 30s, standing between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 7 inches, weighing about 160 pounds, and dressed in a black jacket with full length zipper, along with black pants, white short sleeved shirt and a black hat.

The victim in that incident also told police that her assailant spoke Spanish with an El Salvadorian accent. 

The latest incident occurred this past weekend in the early evening hours of April 20. Around 5 p.m., park police say that a woman was walking on the hiker biker trail near the Chillum Community Park when she was approached by a man bearing a handgun. She was then forced into the woods and raped before her assailant fled on foot. 

Police describe the suspect in that incident to be a Hispanic man in his mid 20s, standing between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighing between 170 to 190 pounds. The suspect is also described as wearing a slight moustache, short, and dark evenly cut hair.

Barbara J. Runion April 27, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I would like to see Patch compile a timeline as to the date Nixle alerts were issued in each rape and the date the rape occurred. It appears the public is not receiving these alerts until days or weeks after the rapes occurred. That, notwithstanding the "typo" indicating a rape occurred on March 20, when the rape occurred on April 20. I think it is imperative that these alerts are disseminated immediately after each rape. Also, I feel the City of Hyattsville Government Communications Manager should post information about these sexual attacks on the City and HOPE ListServ's, along with providing a flier about these rapes to each household in the City. Thank you. Barbara Runion, Hyattsville
Jennifer Mendenhall/Michael Kramer April 27, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Thank you, Patch, for this information. This is a Metrorail and National Parks issue as well as Hyattsville/Mt Rainier; maybe they can deploy police and rangers as well. Signs should be posted, at the very least, to warn women and students who walk in those areas. 5pm on Ager Rd? That's appalling. If drivers were being yanked out of cars at the rate of one a month or more, you can bet you would be hearing about it. Pedestrians should be able to walk safely. And this affects all of us.
ana moran April 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I leave near west hyattsville this was the only way I found out but still have not heard from authorities or on the news about this. why haven't they told the residents?
Theresa D April 30, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I'm a resident of the area and agree that the public should have been notified earlier of these assaults. Where was the alert when the first assaults occurred? Why does there have to be a "string" of assaults before the public is alerted?

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