Police chief: 10 sexual assaults in Hutchinson parks since 2013

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KAKE) -

Authorities say 10 sexual assaults at two Hutchinson parks that spanned several years are likely connected. 

Hutchinson police said in a news release Monday that a suspect or suspects were posing as police or park security in an attempt to get victims out of their vehicles to assault them. 

Police Chief Jeffrey Hooper said Tuesday that the latest assault happened Friday at Carey Park, which is on the south end of town. He said after digging through case files, he discovered that, counting Friday, there have been 10 sexual assaults at Carey and Rice parks since July of 2013.

The victims ranged in age from 15 to around 28. Hooper said he suspects there are more victims out there and urges them to come forward. 

Each of the assaults happened after 9:30 p.m. and into the early morning hours. The suspect, who is on foot, wears dark clothing and occasionally a mask. He shines a bright light into park vehicles, identifies himself as a police or park security officer and asks the victims to exit their vehicles. He then sexually assaults them.

Hutchinson does not employ any sort of park security. The only law enforcement that actively patrols parks around the city are commissioned law enforcement that include the HPD, Reno County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Hutchinson police urge anyone doubting the identity of someone claiming to be a police officer or park security to take the following precautions:

  • Lock the doors on your vehicle and roll up all windows. A police officer will be able to present an official badge, their name, and badge number upon request. If there is still doubt during the contact, inform the officer that you are calling 911 to verify his identity. 
  • If the person tries to stop you from calling 911, drive immediately to the Law Enforcement Center at 210 West 1st and remain on the line with 911. 
  • If you question the identity of the person identifying himself as an officer and he immediately leaves the scene, call 911 and report the incident immediately.

Police advised resident to not be in any city parks after park curfew.  The City of Hutchinson Ordinance regarding hours states:

  • All of the parks in the City designated in this chapter, other than the Jim P. Martinez Sunflower Trail, shall be closed to the public between the hours of twelve midnight (12:00 A.M.) and five A.M (5:00 A.M.), except that with advance written approval of the city manager or his designer, individuals or groups may be allowed to be in a designated park between the hours the park is closed to the public.  Such approval shall be discretionary with the City Manager.  Any written approval shall be specific as to date, hours and location and shall be displayed to any law enforcement officer upon request.
  • The Jim Martinez Sunflower Trail is open to the public one-half hour before sunrise and closed one-half hour after sunset.   

If anyone has had any encounters with people identifying himself as park security or has had encounters with someone they believe falsely identified himself as a police officer, please contact Detective Schoenberg at 620-694-2830 or Reno County Crime Stoppers 620-694-2666.             

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