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Midlothian residents walk to keep focus on attacks near Metra station


As about 40 Midlothian residents prepared to walk around the neighborhood near the Metra station Tuesday evening, Starr Knapp admitted that it was a first for her.

Since it was formed five years ago, the village’s community policing committee has routinely walked neighborhoods, encouraging residents to help be an extra set of eyes and ears for police.

But Tuesday’s walk came just days after a woman was assaulted and robbed as she walked home from the train station, 3750 W. 159th St. Within a few blocks of the station, four women in recent weeks have been robbed or approached by a man wearing a ski mask, and police think the same assailant was involved in all four incidents.

“I’m concerned about my community and want to help out any way I can,” Knapp, 30, said of her first walk with the group. “I think it’s up to us. I want to find him.”

But village Trustee Gary L’Heureux, with the residents’ committee, told reporters before the walk that the participants aren’t part of a vigilante squad. They are “not out here to confront criminals,” and “we’re not about to put volunteer residents in harm’s way,” he said.

L’Heureux said the community policing committee does 75 to 100 neighborhood walks annually, and that a member suggested that the group stroll the area near the Metra station in light of the recent attacks.

The most recent attack occurred at 12:30 a.m. Sunday as a woman who was walking home was pulled to the ground from behind by a man who grabbed her purse, which contained $180, and fled, police reported. When she tried to get up, the man struck her in the face, according to police.

They said there were three previous incidents involving a man wearing a ski mask who attacked or approached women near the Metra station.

L’Heureux said he didn’t want to address the attacks but acknowledged “it’s a very big concern” and that he has “every confidence [police] will catch this guy.”

He said the incidents might raise awareness of the community policing committee and bring more residents out to its walks, noting a large increase in “likes” on the group’s Facebook page in recent days.

Knapp and other walkers said they think the masked attacker lives in or near the neighborhood where they were walking. Because he fled on foot after the attacks, he must live close by, said Pat Mucha, who lives near the station. “He’s pretty slick,” he said.

Former mayor Terry Stephens, who lives just north of the station and watched as the walkers passed his house, hoped the string of attacks would persuade more residents to call police if they see something suspicious.

He said some people might think they’re burdening police by calling “about some weird guy” on their block, but “it might be the guy” police are looking for.

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