City police are stepping up enforcement and warning community groups across the city about a string of rapes over the past two weeks - five during the Halloween weekend alone - some of which investigators believe could be related.
The eight attacks, which police confirmed after receiving inquiries from The Baltimore Sun, stretch back to at least Oct. 20, when a man entered a home in the 1700 block of Barclay St. and hid behind an infant's crib, then bound and gagged a man, and sexually assaulted his girlfriend in front of him.
Police believe that attack might be linked to other break-ins that resulted in sexual assaults, including one that occurred five days later in the 300 block of E. Lafayette St., just two blocks from the Barclay home in the Greenmount West neighborhood.
A separate spate of attacks, involving rapes near bus stops, are also being investigated for common traits, according to police. In one case, a 55-year-old woman was raped after leaving a late-night church event, according to police.
Police were conducting traffic stops in the Harford Avenue area, asking for information, and a deployment of plainclothes officers from the elite Violent Crimes Impact Division has been tasked with assisting in the investigation, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
The crime laboratory is also prioritizing evidence connected to the cases, he said.
"A lot of these incidents are crimes of opportunity - robberies, burglaries," Guglielmi said. "We're stressing that people need to be aware of their surroundings, lock their homes and windows, and be mindful when approaching dimly lit areas."
Guglielmi noted police have not definitively connected the rapes to one or a number of assailants, but are investigating links because of similarities. He said a person of interest has been identified in connection with some of the incidents, but he declined to elaborate as police pursue leads.
The rapes were not initially reported to the public by police, either through the media or on its Twitter or Facebook pages. In November 2008, police were criticized after a delay in informing residents about a series of attacks in Mount Vernon.
But Guglielmi said district commanders across the city have been instructed to pass along information to community groups, and that police will continue to conduct traffic stops to elicit information.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police sex offense unit at 410-396-2605.
The incidents began with the attack in the 1700 block of Barclay in which a man and woman were bound and gagged. The attacker implied that he had a gun.
Five days later, in the 300 block of E. Lafayette, a victim reported that a man climbed through a window from a fire escape, tied her up and sexually assaulted her.
Also on Oct. 25, a woman reported that a man climbed up a fire escape about 7 a.m. and entered her home in the 2500 block of Linden Ave. through an unlocked window. Guglielmi said the victim, who was in her 20s, offered the man money and a computer if he would leave, but he held her down and sexually assaulted her. The home is on the city's west side, in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood south of Druid Lake.
On Sunday, at 4:30 a.m. in the unit block of N. Wolfe St., a woman was asleep in a third-floor apartment when she woke up and saw a man with a knife who was wearing a ski mask. He sexually assaulted her, then took a cell phone and a television.
Separately, several rapes have occurred at or near bus stops.
"We think they're related," Guglielmi said. "They're happening in the early morning hours, around bus stops, all within a fairly close location to one another."
The first occurred Friday just after 6 a.m. at a bus stop in the 1300 block of Harford Ave. A 19-year-old woman was dragged to North Central Avenue, where a man punched her in the face repeatedly, stripped her naked and sexually assaulted her. The woman, suffering from a head injury, flagged down patrol officers.
On Saturday, at 2:45 a.m. in the 400 block of Colvin St., a 55-year-old woman told police she was leaving a late-night church event and was making her way to a bus stop when she was approached by a man who grabbed her by the throat. He brandished a shard of glass and dragged her to an abandoned parking lot, where she was raped.
A third, similar incident occurred in the 4700 block of Garrison Blvd. at 2 a.m. Sunday, though Guglielmi said it does not appear to be related. A woman was waiting at a bus stop when a man approached and struck up a conversation. He asked her to walk into a field, where he pulled out a silver automatic handgun and demanded money. When she said she did not have any money, he sexually assaulted her.
Another rape was reported at 1 a.m. Saturday in the 1800 block of N. Bond St., though the details of the attack - whether it was near a bus stop, during a home invasion or some other circumstance - were unavailable.