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Cops talk about groper Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Feb 26 2011 12:00 PM

Chula Vista police addressed public concerns last week over a string of sexual assaults in the western part of the city.

In response to nearly 20 incidents of women being groped by a hooded assailant, police offered advice on public safety and awareness during a public forum at Chula Vista High School.

Chula Vista Police Lt. Roxana Kennedy said it was advisable for women to employ a buddy system when walking in public.

Kennedy said that in each sexual assault case, the female was walking by herself and a number of them were preoccupied.

Other officers stated the importance of being aware of surroundings and said people who are not paying attention are easy targets for a crime to be committed against them.

Kennedy said common items females carry can be used as tools of self defense such as keys or a purse, while being attacked.

"If someone attacked me, you better believe my purse would become the biggest weapon you've ever seen," she said.

Police Officer Leo Banales said females can also help protect themselves by yelling and screaming to draw attention if they are attacked.

Richard Flahive is a senior at Chula Vista High School and said he didn't know much about the groping incidents until one of his teachers talked about it in class.

Richard, 17, said he usually feels safe walking home from school. "But I'm a guy," he said. "If I was a female I'd be freaked out."

Nora Echavarria's daughter is a sophomore at Chula Vista High School. She said she brought her to the event to get tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

"She's on her phone texting all the time," Echavarria said.

Selena Quintaro admitted to often being distracted by her phone and said the information was enlightening. "I learned that I need to pay more attention to what's around me," she said.

Juan Palomino, 17, is a high school senior and has a 15-year-old sister. Both attend Chula Vista High.

"With the groper out there I have to look out for my sister even more," he said.

Last month, the Chula Vista Police Department released a composite sketch of a man suspected of groping at least 14 females between the ages of 15 and 45.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned Latino in his early 20s with an average build and thin mustache, who often wears a hooded sweatshirt.

The police department is still investigating the groping incidents. If you have any information regarding the suspect, call 691-5151.

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