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Pacoima Residents, Victim Advocates Upset Police Did Not Alert Public To Sexual Assaults

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PACOIMA (CBS) — Some residents in a San Fernando Valley neighborhood say they are upset that police did not reveal they were tracking a suspected serial rapist until after he was caught.

Heather Masterson, who works at a rape crisis center, said she was troubled that police weren’t more forthcoming.

“We definitely feel it is important that the public know that rapes do happen,” said Masterson, director of development at Peace Over Violence, the first such facility established in Southern California.

Victim advocates told CBS2 that it is distressing Pacoima residents were left in the dark about two sexual assaults that occurred in their area Father’s Day weekend.

“If there is video footage you think that would be shared, publicly shared,” Masterson said. “Any information is useful to raise awareness about public safety. It is not the responsibility of victims or potential victims to prevent sexual assaults.”

Last week, CBS2 first learned about the two similar sexual assaults that occurred within hours near the Los Angeles Police Department’s Foothill division.

Patrol officers had reportedly received bulletin alerts and a photo of the potential suspect riding his bike. It was captured near one of the alleged crime scenes by security cameras from a local tire shop on San Fernando Road.

CBS2 obtained the video footage from the owner.

Attempts to report the story were denied several times by the LAPD. Lead detectives said they did not want to compromise their investigation.

One day after an email was sent to CBS2 denying a request for information, a 40-year-old woman was kidnapped and raped at knifepoint at a supermarket parking lot in Pacoima. It led to the arrest of 29-year-old Sergio Serrano, of Sylmar.

Tonight advocates wonder if it could have been prevented with more public awareness.

“Every rape is devastating and if you’re in a position where you feel one could have been prevented, could have said something, reported something…it is definitely devastating,” Masterson said.

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