NORCROSS - Police have stepped up patrols at Lucky Shoals Park in Norcross in response to three reported attacks on women there within the past six weeks.
Investigators suspect the same man has attacked three separate women during daylight hours at the 68-acre park at 4651 Britt Road, near the DeKalb County line. He typically walks up to the women, grabs them and demands money. The suspect brandished a knife during the past two attacks, according to police incident reports.
All three women fought off the attacker or scared him away by screaming for help. They all escaped unharmed, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. None of the victims' belongings were taken, except for a cell phone the man reportedly picked up after a woman dropped it.
"Everything we see indicates that the motive behind this was theft," Moloney said. "I've been asked if this is a sexual crime, and no, we don't have anything to indicate that."
The first incident was reported Aug. 8. The suspect apparently struck again Aug. 28, and targeted a third victim on Friday. Police are working with the victims Tuesday to develop a composite sketch of the assailant, which they hope to release later this week. There is only one GBI sketch artist for the state, and police are trying to coordinate a meeting with the sketch artist, the victims and a Spanish-speaking interpreter because all the victims are Hispanic, Moloney said.
"Detectives are working hot and heavy to get this composite sketch out," Moloney said. "We've got increased park presence. They're all over the place like white on rice. Park personnel are also aware of the investigation."
The suspect is described as a dark-skinned Hispanic man in his late 20s. He has a thin build and is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, police said.
Park visitors are asked to report any suspicious activity to park officials or call 911. Pay phones are located in the park, and 911 is a free service from any pay phone, Moloney said.
In the meantime, residents are urged to be alert of their surroundings while enjoying the park. Travel with friends and always let someone know where you are going and when you'll be back, Moloney said. Police recommend keeping the volume low on headphones so you can still hear what's happening around you.
Lucky Shoals Park is one of the older parks in the county, and it is located near an area heavily developed with apartment complexes and extended-stay motels, Moloney said.
According to the Gwinnett County government Web site, the park has four multipurpose youth fields, an adult softball field, two lighted tennis courts, an outdoor multipurpose court and a one-mile paved trail. It also boasts two pavilions, a picnic area, open play areas and a playground.