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Women assaulted in popular Lake Merritt area

Two women were robbed and sexually assaulted Sept. 19th near Lake Merritt. While the incidents occurred separately, police suspect the same perpetrator committed both crimes.

According to Oakland Police Department’s Public Information Officer Holly Joshi, the crimes occurred in the late evening about two hours and two blocks apart – on the 1400 block of 3rd Ave., and E. 18th St and Lakeshore. Joshi stated that both victims were young adults – one in her twenties and another in her early thirties – and robbed and assaulted in a similar manner. Police describe the suspect as a 6-foot African American male in his twenties who was carrying a weapon.

Many Mills College students who spend time around Lake Merritt expressed concern.

Business MBA student Julie McDonald, who frequently walks around the lake with her twelve-year-old daughter, finds Lake Merritt more dangerous in the evening.

“The whole personality of the lake really changes at nightfall,” McDonald said. “There are just fewer people around, so if there were to be a problem, you couldn’t call for help. Normally the lake is a really busy place and it feels safe, even if you have questionable, shady characters.”

While the suspect has yet to be apprehended, Joshi said the Oakland Police Department has received numerous tips since a community alert was sent out via e-mail on Sept. 21.

“The public has been very forthcoming,” Joshi said, unable to provide concrete details on
the case.

Despite the recent crimes, many students intend to return to the lake.

“I’ll still go to Lake Merritt. I’ll just be more careful,” Mills student, Lutita Molina said.

McDonald, too, plans to take extra precautions.

“I think Lake Merritt is a great and beautiful place, and I hate the fact that there is any kind of crime down there,” McDonald said. “Frankly, I think the main thing is to go during the light and go in groups of two or more. I would not go around the lake at dusk at this point.”

Mills College Public Safety had similar advice.

“Try to travel with a friend,” Officer Dennis Bernardo said. “And if you are unfortunate enough to be a victim, be the best witness you can be. Report everything you see.”

Officers of both the Oakland Police Department and Public Safety encourage students to never underestimate the chance of a crime to occur.

They stressed, however, that “in that particular area, there aren’t huge crimes,” Joshi said.

Contact the Oakland Police with information on the suspect of the Lake Merritt robberies and assaults or any other crimes at 510.238.3641.