Nine girls have been sexually attacked in Camden since October, but no strong patterns have emerged to suggest the assaults have been the work of a single predator.
The nine "major incidents" stretch back to Oct. 16, authorities said today . In each case, African American or Hispanic girls between the age of 11 and 16 have been the victims.
Two of the girls, including a 12-year-old discovered partially clothed in East Camden last week, were raped. In the remaining seven cases, the girls either escaped the assailant or the attack did not involve sexual penetration, said Joshua Ottenberg, the acting Camden County Prosecutor.
Suspect descriptions in the nine cases have varied: Some cases involved one attacker, others involved two. The suspect vehicle descriptions also have varied, although several victims said the attacker drove a dark mini-van.
The incidents have occurred all over the city.
"At this point, we're looking at them as individual cases . . . until we have better suspect information," Ottenberg said. "Your mind wants to find commonalities . . . but then you start to pick it apart and they're not all there."
Investigators have a "person of interest," whom they are trying to identify, Ottenberg said, but he said he could not release any more information.
He said the nine assaults and attempted assaults were not an unusual number for the city.
"But that is a high number in that age group," he said. "The real connection that makes us put these cases together is the victims."
The last incident happened on Saturday, around 3 a.m., when a 15-year-old Hispanic girl escaped two assailants near 31st and River Avenues in Cramer Hill, Ottenberg said.
That attack did not fit the pattern of the others, which mostly occurred in the evening hours, between 6 and 11 p.m., Ottenberg said.
Some of the incidents have happened near schools. But, because they happened after school hours, investigators do not believe someone is targeting children as they come and go from school grounds, the prosecutor said.
An 11-year-old girl was abducted on Dec. 11 as she walked near Camden Promise School and forced into a dark mini-van. She was released a short time later.
Camden police said that attack may have been connected to two similar incidents.
"It does appear that the van might be a crime scene for us," Ottenberg said.
He said investigators would put a warning out to the schools, which are on holiday break. And, he urged parents to keep an eye on their daughters, particularly if they fall into that age range.
Camden also has a disproportionately high number of Megan's Law sex offenders living there, for various reasons, Ottenberg said.
"At least with those people, we have good records," he said. "So that's a little bit of a help."