Park Forest police say the man they are after is likely involved in attacks on four teenage girls. They say he may be familiar with the community, as all four crimes happened within a one-mile radius, and he seems to strike during the daytime hours before and after school.
A Park Forest police robo call went out to residents Wednesday night. Police say a student was headed to Forest Trail Middle School Wednesday morning when a masked man holding a knife approached her. It happened in the 300 block of Windsor Street. The girl ran away.
"It may be possible that he's aware now that we're looking for him. That said, a person wearing a ski mask out in public, especially as the weather is turning warmer, that should be a serious sign," said Deputy Chief Christopher Mannino, Park Forest Police Deparmtent.
"That could easily be my son out there in the morning, walking to school or standing on the corner for the bus and that concerns me," said Arika Wesley.
"As a father, I have a 19-year-old and 6-year-old daughter. That is my worst fear, that something may happen to them, and I'm not allowed to help defend them," said Donnie Woods.
On Monday, police say a man fondled a 15-year-old girl at the intersection near Sangamon and Shabbona around 5:40 p.m.
The man was described as a 5'8" black man between 25 and 30 years old with a slim to medium build and facial hair. He was wearing a light blue baseball cap and grey sweatpants with a red stripe down the side, police said.
On March 18, a 17-year-old girl was robbed at knifepoint and groped around Winnebago Park. Two days later, another 17-year-old was groped near Westgate Street and Westwood Drive, less than two blocks from Winnebago Park.
"Be alert, don't be looking down at a cell phone. Be aware of your surroundings. And, if possible, walk in groups," said Deputy Chief Mannino.
Some residents are hopping in their vehicles and being proactive.
"I have taken my fear and I have used it as a tool. I am out here to make sure that every last one of these kids get to where they have to go, get where they are going safely," said Tammy McDowell.
Police say one of the victims was one her phone when the man confronted her, and all the victims were alone at the time. Park Forest police are asking residents to call if they see anything suspicious.
Police say a March attack on an adult female by a naked man in Shabbona Park is not related to the four other attacks on teens. Police say that suspect was located via help from the public.
"I told her all you have to do is just pray like, and thank God every day because when she ran away, you never know, he could have had a gun on her when he really had a knife on her," said Rich East student Larissa Walton, who knows one of the victims.
"These girls are out here being attacked by this guy. I wish they would just catch him. It's a small community. I don't know why it's so hard to catch him," said parent Tracy Williams.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.