CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Police officers and sheriff’s deputies canvassed an area in Clayton County Tuesday as they tried to find the man they call a serial rapist.
Members of the Clayton County Police Department and Clayton County Sheriff’s Office targeted the area along Highway 138, Southlake Parkway, and the Battlecreek Corridor Tuesday afternoon.
Law enforcement officers distributed composite sketches of the rapist who they have linked at least seven attacks on women.
As handed out the sketches, one officer told residents, "We'd like to leave you with this. It's got some pointers on the front and on the back it's got some photos."
The massive effort comes after a woman was raped in the 7000 block of Southlake Parkway on Saturday.
Investigators say the man forced the victim into her residence at knifepoint and began raping her.
The rapist fled the residence when the woman’s boyfriend interrupted the attack.
Police suspect the assailant in Saturday’s attack is the same man recently linked through DNA evidence to seven rapes in Clayton County, dating back to 2015.
"We're hoping that if that information gets out, maybe someone who was a victim that hasn't reported or someone who may know who the perpetrator may be will reach out to police and let us know," Clayton County Police Officer Marcena Davis told FOX 5’s Deidra Dukes.
Police say the rapist targets African-American females, most of whom live in apartment complexes and townhomes.
In most cases, the attacker gained entry through an unsecured window, accosted the victims as they walked to their apartment, or ambushed them after knocking on their door. Police say he was armed with a gun or a knife during some of the attacks.
With a manhunt for a seriel rapist intensifying, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has ordered his training division to conduct rape defense classes to women in Clayton County.
Women in Clayton County are on alert, and many are taking matters into their own hands. They're looking into ways to protect themselves.
"We're receiving a lot of calls for women's self defense classes," said Rod Leonard of Championship Martial Arts.
Leonard says it's no coincidence the calls are coming in with this violent predator on the run. Leonard says he takes a common sense approach to self defense, starting with situational awareness.
"Being very observant of what's taking place around you and staying off social media and off your phones," said Leonard.
Leonard says be aware of your surroundings and know what to look for when a stranger approaches.
"Just being able to watch the person's body language, eye contact, how are they behaving when they approach you? The signs are there," said Leonard.
Darriell Edwards lives in the same complex on Southlake Parkway where the most recent assault occurred. Tuesday evening she went out and bought a tool to reinforce her door.
"It's pretty scary. My dad stopped by and told me about it, he told me to go to Home Depot right now. It's pretty scary, I try to make sure I'm home before dark so I can take my son home and lock my house up," said Edwards.
She says she's noticed a many more police driving through the complex and is happy to know they're dilligently searching for this guy.
"Knowing they're out and stepping up, I do appreciate that. Hopefully they'll catch him and everyone will start to feel a bit more safe," said Edwards.
The classes will take place on Friday, March 15, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 21, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 23, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, March 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, March 29, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The classes will be held at the Sheriff’s Office Headquarters at 9157 Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro.
Anyone who wants to register should contact Barbara Prince at 678-479-5322 or email her at Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org.