Toronto police on Tuesday renewed warnings for women in the west downtown core to be mindful of their surroundings after three brazen sex attacks on the weekend – two within minutes of each other on the same street corner – that may be linked to at least 10 other incidents.
"We are available to be contacted at any time, we have increased our patrols and we are doing a canvass," Detective Sue Kernohan of the Sex Crimes Unit told reporters.
On Saturday at around 10:55 p.m., a 19-year-old woman was walking south on Montrose Avenue from Harbord Street when a man rushed at her from behind, sexually assaulted her and fled north. She sustained minor injuries.
Five minutes later, a similar scenario played out again, just metres away.
Then, on Sunday night at around 11:45 p.m., a woman walking southbound on Grace Street from Bloor Street was sexually assaulted from behind by a man who also fled north.
The incidents are familiar for residents of the Annex area, particularly near the intersection of Bloor and Christie streets. During the summer, the area was the site of at least 10 sexual assaults, similar in nature.
It was not immediately clear whether the three weekend assaults were committed by the same man. The suspect in Sunday's incident is described as a heavyset black man in his mid-20s with short black hair. The suspects in the two Saturday assaults are described as black and heavily built, wearing a hat with a brim. One report described a man between the ages of 25 and 45; in the other incident he was said to be between 20 and 30. The sexual assaults reported over the summer involved an assailant with a similar description, who also attacked women from behind, and they stirred alarm.
Then, until this past weekend, there appeared to be a lull in the pattern, to which a flurry of media releases and several public meetings may have contributed.
Police on Tuesday declined to say whether undercover officers, including decoys, have been deployed. Nor can they be sure that only one perpetrator is on the loose. A composite drawing is expected to be released soon, and posters, too, may be issued.
What's consistent, they said, is the need for women in the area to be cautious, particularly late at night.
"In this day and age it's common that people become distracted by cell phones and iPads," Det. Kernohan said.
"But I think women are smart enough to be aware of their surroundings and listen to their instincts."
Anyone who has spotted a person matching the loose description of the suspect is urged to step forward.
"Any bit of information helps," Det. Kernohan said.
"Sex assaults are highly under-reported. There may be victims that have been approached but not assaulted. If you were approached by a male fitting the description, then call police."
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−7474 or to Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477).