Jacksonville parents concerned after series of sex assaults

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Parents are on edge following a recent series of sexual assaults reported in the span of a week in Northwest Jacksonville and on the city’s Northside.

In one case, an 18-year-old man is already behind bars. But police are still looking to make arrests in the remaining two incidents.

While police do not believe the same person is behind these attacks, the sudden surge in attacks has local families worried.

“I am very concerned,” Jessica King said Thursday, as she walked her children along 45th Street, near where one of the attacks took place. “I don’t really let them go outside and play anyway.”

King said when her 11-year-old daughter goes to school, she doesn’t go alone. She has to be accompanied by a group of friends.

“I try to keep them safe,” said King. “There’s only so much you can do.”

The family doesn’t live far from where a girl was kidnapped Monday. 

Police said the girl was walking home from school about 4 p.m. near West 4th Street and Moncrief Road when a man drove up and forced her into a car.

The girl told investigators her abductor drove her downtown, possibly near the Florida State College at Jacksonville campus on West State Street, and assaulted her before letting her go.

In that case, police looking for a bald, light-skinned man with a dirty face and rectangular glasses, in addition to a four-door, dark blue sedan.

That incident happened the same day a woman reported she was dragged into some woods on the Northside and raped. Police said the attack took place on Harts Road near Interstate 95.

The victim in that case told reporters her attacker pulled her into the woods, assaulted her and threatened to kill her when she cried out for help. She said he then robbed her and set her free.

An hour later, investigators identified the suspect as 18-year-old De’Shawn Davis, who was taken into custody on a felony sexual battery charge. He’s being held in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Those incidents came a week after a 13-year-old girl reported she was harassed by a stranger while walking to school.

The teen told police it happened near Portsmouth Avenue and Tallyho Avenue, not far from Trout River Boulevard in Northwest Jacksonville.

Police are still looking for a man in his 20s, described as about 5-foot-6 and roughly 160 pounds with a faded afro hairstyle, in that case.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the recent developments are concerning, and not just because there are potentially multiple men out there committing sex crimes.

“You can’t assume that there were just three sexual assaults because sexual assault is a grossly underreported crime,” Smith said.

But Smith said there are steps students and parents can take to protect themselves and their loved ones, chiefly not walking to school or home alone.

“They should always be near a group of people or with someone else because these attacks hardly ever happen when somebody is with somebody else,” he said.

The Women’s Center of Jacksonville is available to help anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault. The center’s 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline is (904) 721-7273, or go to womenscenterofjax.org for additional information.

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