Police in Iowa City are combing through recent police complaints to see if they can determine the pattern of a person who’s allegedly attacking women. Over the weekend, three women reported being grabbed by a stranger as they walked alone. Iowa City Police Lieutenant Sid Jackson says those may not be the first cases in a string of attacks.

“We’ve been tracking a series of assaults that have occurred, starting
about the middle of the summer and trying to figure out some pattern,” Jackson says. Police believe one person is responsible. In each case, the women were alone when they were grabbed, and it happened in the evening. “(The attackers) were all strangers, people who were unknown to the victims,” he says.

A woman told police on Friday night that she was going into her apartment when a man pushed her down on the stairway and tried to reach under her clothes. A second women says she was walking down an alley Saturday night when a man walked up behind her, lifted her skirt and began to grope her. A third woman says just after midnight Sunday morning she was walking when a strange man threw her to the ground and tried to tear off her clothes. In each case, the women struggled and the attacker gave up.

The investigator says as soon as the women indicated the contact was unwanted and started shouting and struggling, the perpetrator took off. He says each case has to be considered separately and fighting back may not always be the best response.

If the attacker has a weapon or makes overt threats to harm the victim, he says you’d have to think twice about fighting back. But in these cases Jackson says it looks like that was the right thing to do, since there was no weapon and the attacker didn’t threaten to harm the women if they resisted.

In each case the young women were alone, and Lieutenant Jackson says it’s hard to tell if there’s a serious public threat to the string of attacks. He says there’d be a concern for personal safety, even if it were young men being accosted by a stranger while they were alone on the street. It may just be this time of year, when he notes football season’s in full swing, “and folks tend to imbibe a little too much.” According to descriptions from the victims, the assailant is a young white man with brown hair who’s less than six feet tall.

Iowa City police could use help from anyone who knows who the attacker might be and if the same person’s involved in more than one attack.