Daily News reporter Jan Ransom and I spent a couple of hours tonight on Kensington Avenue chatting up prostitutes about the elusive Kensington Strangler, who police believe may be responsible for two murders and the brutal attack of three other women.
We first met Darlene as she was bundled up and walking down Kensington Avenue near Huntingdon Street, right past a flyer with a composite sketch of the suspect on it.
"I know a couple of the girls it happened to, Nikki,[Nicole Piacentini, killed by the suspect] and one of the girls that got away. I don't know her real name but everybody calls her Bears. I'm just more cautious now," Darlene said after the cops told her to be careful.
"It sucks you're just so scared all the time but you have to survive. It's bad enough the things that you have to do while you're out here but then you have this going on, it's crazy."
We drove further down and spotted Kerin and her cousin Erika standing near Kensington and Somerset Street.
Kerin, 31, and Erika, 29, sported jeans and hooded jackets and for protection they carried pocket knives and Mace as they braved the bitter cold.. They said they used to be dancers and that they walked the streets every once in a while.
They said it's not uncommon for a prostitute to be robbed, raped or beaten-up, but the latest news on the street has caused everyone to take extra precaution.
"I don't do walk-ups," Kerin said of guys who pull up to her along the side of the road. "I don't date black guys and I don't go into abandos [abandoned homes]."
Kerin said she knew one of the Kensington Strangler's survivors. The victim told Kerin that while she was having sex, the attacker kept moving his hands from her waist to her neck to try to choke her, until the woman elbowed him.
The women believe the strangler lives in the area.
"Something gotta be wrong with his head," Kerin said. "I hope he gets killed."
Kerin, a short, petite, blonde said she landed in Kensington after being clean for 10 years. She was at a clinic in New Jersey where she was on methadone. She was eventually transferred to another clinic and then kicked out.
Now she said she "has to" use heroin since she's no longer on methadone and she suffers from seizures. She claimed she had one Wednesday night, an hour before she was back standing back on the avenue and talking to the Daily News.
But for Kerin and her cousin that didn't seem to matter, nor did the threat of a serial strangler on the loose.
"One more date and then we're heading home," Erika said as her pocket knife dangled on a keychain by her waist side.