Crime analyst: Routines likely key in solving Austin sex assaults

Woman pushes baby stroller at the scene of the eighth N. Austin sex assault (KXAN Photo)
Woman pushes baby stroller at the scene of the eighth N. Austin sex assault (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While Austin police investigate a string of sexual assaults which may have resumed after an extended absence, the time, place and manner of the reported attacks could provide an important clue if physical and forensic evidence is lacking.

An eighth report of an assault was filed this week, and all eight are along the Highway 183 corridor. Criminologist and Texas State Professor Marcus Felson said that could help police zero in on a suspect.

(KXAN Photo)
Crime diagram (KXAN Photo)

“It is very easy for someone to get on the freeway, find a property and get back on before they are noticed said Felson. As a crime analyst, he looks for patterns in crimes which could help narrow the focus of an investigation.

“I look at where people commit crimes, when and how. I check the time, time of day, day of week.”

Doing so can help develop an idea of an attacker’s daily routine and location. Based on a map showing the eight locations stretching from the Anderson Mill area all the way south past I-35, Felson thinks the attacker likely lives somewhere along the middle of the stretch and is familiar with the area.

“They go for crime targets in their awareness space,” said Felson. “They know the area and corridors leading to them.”

Just as we feel comfortable in our home, the routes to common destinations and neighborhood streets, Felson said criminals also feel comfortable committing crimes in areas they are most familiar. Like their victims, criminals have daily routines according to Felson. Crimes occur when those routines intersect. At least two of the eight attacks have been against women pushing baby strollers.

“The crimes happen when everyday routines of an offender overlap with everyday routines of a victim. We get the best mileage out of studying those everyday routine activities.”

In multiple reports, victims said their attacker kept his face partially covered. APD said they are in the process of developing a sketch, but still need to interview victims before an image can be completed.

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