Ross Township Police continued to search Thursday for the man responsible for sexually assaulting two women within days of each other, while North Hills residents remained extra vigilant in the wake of the news.
"The fear is out there so bad with everyone," said Ross Commissioner Lana Mazur. "Women who have never been afraid before are afraid."
Mazur, who organizes the township's quarterly Crime Watch meetings, said a special crime watch meeting is being planned this month. Officials are expected to announce a date and time Monday for the meeting.
The meeting is being coordinated with Ross Township Police Chief Robert Bellan, Mazur said.
"Every possible police officer is working on catching this guy," she said. "This is the top priority."
Ross police interviewed a man Wednesday at the station in connection with the sexual assaults, but the man cooperated and was released after the interview. They said they anticipate interviewing more suspects throughout the week.
Both Ross Township and West View police have placed extra patrols in the area's more than two dozen apartment complexes.
"The officers that are on the street are focusing on where these incidents have occurred, as well as other apartment complexes that can be targeted," said Ross police spokesman Sgt. Benjamin Dripps.
In West View, extra patrolmen have been placed on shifts as well, particularly in the early-morning hours, the time of day when the attacks Saturday and Monday occurred, said West View spokesman Officer Matt Holland.
West View, like Ross, is fielding an increase in calls from North Hills residents.
"Anything suspicious, people are calling in," Holland said. "This really has the North Hills in a panic."
Jim Richey, the owner of North Hills Lock and Safe on Perry Highway, said he's noticed an uptick in business over the last few days.
"There's definitely a lot of tension out there," he said. "We looked at more patio doors this week than in the last two months."
He said he's also been called out to a couple of apartment complexes to review security features.
At the Woodhawk Club Apartments complex on Johnanna Drive, where the first attack in Ross was reported to have occurred about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, a leasing agent who declined to give her name said property managers were being asked often about security.
"We're doing the best we can," she said. "We're putting up motion detectors and lights."
Across the street at the Waldorf Park Apartments at 103 McKnight Circle, property manager Rebecca Dailey said safety notices have been sent to residents and everyone is being vigilant. She said Ross Township police have been patrolling frequently through the complex.
"Ross Township has been wonderful," she said, adding that officers on patrol are seen at least once an hour. "Their prescensehas been more now than I've ever seen them."
The two Ross Township women attacked were both assaulted in their apartments in the early-morning hours after returning from walking their dogs. They do not have any apparent connection to their attacker, police said.
Both women are in their mid-20s. The attack Monday, Jan. 9, occurred at about 6 a.m. in the secluded Cascades Apartment complex on East West Drive, tucked off Cemetery Lane within a 100-acre wooded setting.
Ross Police are searching for a suspect described as a black man in his mid-40s. They said he was wearing dark jeans, a dark, Nike hooded and zippered sweatshirt with a red Michael Jordan logo, and a dark knit cap or mask rolled up on his head.
Police are also searching for a dark blue Ford Expedition XLT that a witness saw leave the Woodhawk Club Apartment complex Saturday driven by a man matching the description of the suspect. Video cameras on McKnight Road captured images of that vehicle minutes after the suspect was believed to have left the apartment complex, Dripps said.
The Expedition is believed to be a newer model, possibly manufactured in 2009, and might have damage to the driver's side door. It is a regular-length SUV, Dripps said.
Hopewell Township Police are also investigating a sexual assault with some similarities to the Ross Township cases.
According to information released by Hopewell Township police, a woman on Westfield Drive reported that she was assaulted by a man in her townhome shortly after 7:45 a.m. Saturday.
News of the attacks has prompted many to search out ways to better protect themselves and their family, according to social media postings on Facebook and Twitter over the past week.
Al Hanasik, the owner of a Mixed Martial Arts facility in Emsworth who has family and friends in Ross Township, said he was so disturbed by the boldness of the attacks that he is willing to teach a self-defense class free to any group in the area interested in organizing one.
Hanasik, who works with women's shelters and police organizations, said it's the least he could do.
"I have the ability to empower someone," he said.
Mazur said the township, too, is looking at organizing a self-defense class for women.