Three reports of women being groped while on footpaths in East Columbia this month have led Howard County Police to step up patrol efforts, according to spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.
“This is not something we see frequently on the pathways,” said Llewellyn, who added police believe the three incidents are related.
“This is a situation where we are asking for the public’s help because we believe we have one person commiting this act repeatedly,” she said.
Here are the incidents, according to police:
• Aug. 25 — a woman was walking in the area of Oakland Mills Road near Dobbin Road when she was inappropriately touched by a man on a cell phone.
• Aug. 9 — a woman said she was jogging on a footpath near Majors Lane when she was touched inappropriately by another jogger.
• Aug. 7 — a woman on a footpath off Old Montgomery Road reported a man ran up beside her while she was jogging and grabbed her.
Police said the suspect is a black man in his 20s or 30s, approximately 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds with short hair and a medium build. Police said he has been seen wearing a dark T-shirt or white polo-style shirt with running shorts.
Police also believe there may be more victims, and are asking citizens with information to come forward.
“Often times, unfortunately, people decide they are not going to report something if they aren't injured,” Llewellyn said. “We hope there aren’t (any other victims), but if there are we want them to come forward and give us any information they have even if it seems small to them.”
Llewellyn added that in addition to bike and foot patrols, police also deploy a volunteer mounted horse patrol along Columbia pathways.
In an incident that police believe is unrelated, a woman was running along the Patuxent Branch Trail near Iron Bridge Road in Jessup on Aug. 15 when she was approached by a teenager who grabbed her arm. The woman was able to flee unharmed.
That suspect is described as white male, approximately 16 years old, with blond hair and wearing a gray T-shirt, khaki shorts and gray Nike shoes.