By Alan Bennett
North Park citizens were intimately involved in the arrest of David Angelo Drake, a 23-year-old male as a suspect in the sexual assaults on women in North Park over the past four months. The San Diego resident was arraigned on September 11th at the downtown courthouse. Mr. Drake was taken into custody into custody near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Street.
This was possible because a North Park resident took the time to get involved. The tipsters words to me were: “I did not expect that I would solve the puzzle, but I knew that I had to try and that I was going to keep at it until I figured it out.” Although bedridden, the tipster suspected having seen the emblem on the suspect’s Tee shirt caught on a closed circuit television. That image was vague but familiar. After four hours, searching Tee shirt websites, a match was made.
Our neighborhood tipster contacted an acquaintance, who is a San Diego Police Officer, living in North Park. With a little bit of skepticism, the officer looked at the results of the computer search. With one quick glance, he came to the conclusion the image was an exact match!
Our tipster observed: “Being sick causes a person to feel like they have no meaningful contributions left to make; this experience has given me the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, which has also has been very therapeutic for me.
Besides making a tactical contribution to solving a crime, our neighbor also suggested: “I would encourage … the concept of having police officers live in their agency’s community. Where we came from …all of the officers must live in the city proper. It creates a vested interest and encourages officers to be active members of the community they patrol…and I think that is an example of how to get officers back into our fine city.”
To quickly review the history of this successfully closed case, the most recent of the half-dozen attacks happened about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2014. A woman was knocked to the ground and punched in the face in an alley off the 3900 block of Idaho Street. The assailant ran off when the victim screamed and several witnesses came to her aid.
A roadside surveillance camera captured fuzzy images of a potential suspect. The images were made public, prompting the tip that led to Drake’s arrest, police said.
On July 20, 2014, a woman was attacked from behind and knocked out in the 2900 block of Lincoln Avenue.
About 1 a.m. June 24, 2014, a woman was jumped from behind while walking on Lincoln Avenue, near Oregon Street. The attacker tackled her and pummeled her in the face, causing her to lose consciousness.
Meade Avenue near 33rd Street on June 17, and on Lincoln Avenue near Oregon Street on June 21, 2014 had similar attacks, according to police.
June 11, 2014 was the first attack. It occurred in the 3900 block of 33rd Street.
Armed with the match on the Tee shirt, police found the Tee shirt was only available to the employees of a BBQ restaurant. Our tipster had seen the Tee shirt in the vicinity of Washington and Fifth Avenue. The police officer immediately took the information to the mobile Neighborhood Resources Team (NRT), already in North Park at the northwest corner of Lincoln and Idaho Street.
Appropriate police personnel were called in, briefed and on the street focused on an arrest. Solid information, trained professionals and a strike plan put in place to handle these types of emergencies meant that appropriate resources were marshaled and deployed and the bad guy was off our streets at 7:15 p.m., on Monday, September 8, 2014. Yeah for the police, and chalk one up for neighbors who believe: “See it, Report it!”
The North Park community is holding a series of community Town Hall Meetings: “Take a Stand!” Everyone is invited on September 29, 2014, as we cast a wide net to gather in resources in North Park to assure we remain “San Diego’s most walkable neighborhood”.
We have a number of residents, business leaders, and service providers coming to the North Park Lion’s Club lodge, 3927 Utah Street, the evening of Monday, September 29, 2014, for a community forum starting a 7:30 p.m. We will listen to any ideas that will provide the warp and woof of a safety net for a strategy we must develop to solve the puzzle of providing healthy, safe and informed citizens. Light refreshments will be served.
Alan Bennet is a board member of the North Park Citizens Association (NPCA)