OAKLAND -- Police are investigating several sexual assaults against women in the Fruitvale district, and suspect there may be several additional victims who have not reported the crimes.
Officials on Thursday urged any victims to come forward to help catch their attackers.
Authorities did not release specific details of the incidents but said several victims have reported being attacked. Police said they have heard from community members that there have been more attacks.
"The level of violence is escalating," said Ana Martinez, the neighborhood services coordinator in the Fruitvale who acts as a liaison between the community and Oakland Police. "The most recent victim came forward after the urging of family members because her injuries were severe."
The victims are typically Latina and range in age from 18 to their early 50s. The assaults begin when men try to rob the victims. When the women don't have items of value, the attackers sexually assault them, police said.
"We are encouraging victims to come forward so we can identify the offenders and remove them from our community so this doesn't happen to other women," said Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson.
Watson said victims are hesitant to come forward because they are embarrassed, have a lack of trust toward police or fear retaliation or being deported.
Police would not release the number of victims that have come forward.
"Right now we have very
Martinez encouraged Fruitvale residents to be aware of their surroundings and urged victims or family members to report any incidents to police.
Victims are encouraged to contact Bay Area Women Against Rape at 510-845-7273. Anyone with information is asked to contact the city's Youth and Family Service Division at 510-238-3641 or the Tip Line at 510-637-0298.