Police on foot, on bicycles and in patrol cars are stepping up their presence at Holmes Run Park following two attempted sexual assaults in the park within the past month.
Alexandria police Lt. Mark Bergin told the Holmes Run Park Committee, which met Thursday evening at the Beatley Library, that the department is taking the attacks very seriously.
“These kinds of assaults, attempted rape and the woman who was grabbed, which may have been a precursor to sexual assault, are very rare in Alexandria,” he said. “They do happen.”
Police are spending extra funds to add additional patrol officers in the area. For at least the next two weeks, and maybe longer, officers will walk the area on foot from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Bergin said. Officers from the daylight and midnight shifts will also walk through the area at least three times per shift, he said.
Officers in patrol cars and on bicycles will also be riding through the area frequently, Bergen said.
The first assault occurred Sept. 12 in the Holmes Run area. In that case, a man grabbed a 38-year-old female jogger from behind on the bike path by the parkway. The woman screamed and broke free from the suspect.
On Tuesday, a man attempted to sexually assault a woman who was walking in the 5300 block of Holmes Run Parkway. The incident occurred at about 9:45 p.m. in a wooded area just south of the creek.
According to police, a 23-year-old Alexandria woman was walking in the park near the community garden area when she saw a man and a woman sitting on a park bench, Bergin said. The woman walked away, and the man approached her.
He began to talk to her, then grabbed her and pulled her into a secluded area, where he pulled off most of her clothing and attempted to sexually assault her, police said. The woman was able to break free and ran away.
Bergen said he could not comment on the status of the investigation into the assaults.
“Our detectives are working this constantly,” he told community members. The man in the first attack was described as a skinny, light-skinned black man or Hispanic man, and the man in the second assault was described as a heavyset black man.
“The descriptions were divergent enough, the actions were divergent enough,” Bergin said. “On one hand, we don't think this is a serial rapist that is attacking people, but it's two people in the same place.”
Bergin said the lush environment of Holmes Run, while a benefit to the community, also carries dangers in the form of dark and secluded spots. Police are considering giving verbal warning to local residents who use the park at night, when it is closed.
Officers also offered the following safety tips for joggers and pedestrians:
- Run, jog or walk with a known companion in a familiar area.
- Do not run, jog or walk in a heavily wooded, poorly lighted or secluded area.
- Do not wear earbuds.
- Do not run, walk or jog after dark.
- Vary your route or running, jogging or walking.
- Carry a whistle or high-decible personal alarm.
Bergin asked anyone who spots something suspicious at the park to call the police non-emergency number at 703-746-4444 or call 911. Local residents can also contact Bergin directly at 571-238-3778 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.