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Sketch, photo released of NoHo rape suspect

March 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The search is on for a sexual predator in North Hollywood. Police say they have surveillance video of a man who followed a woman for blocks, then raped her. They want to find this suspect before he strikes again. The woman was sexually assaulted in North Hollywood.A 37-year-old woman was walking down Lankershim Boulevard around 12:45 a.m. last Thursday. A man followed her for several blocks, then caught up with her just north of Vanowen Street. He grabbed her arm and pulled her into a dark, vacant parking lot beside a banquet hall. He ordered her to undress and then sexually assaulted her.

"There's a possibility he may be a previous offender but at this time we can't link him to any series of crimes or any other sexual assaults in the area," said Los Angeles Police Lieutenant Alan Hamilton.

Police released a composite sketch of the suspect. Police say after committing the assault the predator fled on foot and was last seen near Lankershim and Hart Street.

Police also released a blurry surveillance photo captured by a nearby business. It shows the suspect holding what appears to be a jacket.

"This is really the slums a little bit," said North Hollywood resident Paulina Shafir. "It's a really poor area right here."

Shafir says sometime she walks alone at night, but she tries to be aware of her surroundings.

"I am extremely cautious," said Shafir. "I make sure I don't wear my headphones on main streets. As soon as I get a block away from my house I can put them on and always look back and make sure. Generally you don't want to walk around in this area."

"I am concerned [about walking at night] but unfortunately I have my schedule and I have to be at certain places at certain times and it does bother me," said North Hollywood resident Mary O'Connor.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man between 24 and 26 years old, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing about 120 pounds. He has curly or wavy shoulder-length hair.

Police believe he's likely still in the area and they're hoping the public can help get him off the streets.

"We think based on the crime pattern, the way it occurred and other information the we have, he is a resident of the North Hollywood area and that he is from the local area," said Lt. Hamilton.