District police have arrested one man and are seeking two others in a string of rapes that occurred last winter and this spring in Anacostia and alarmed many residents in the area around Morris Road SE.
Three members of a loose-knit gang calling itself the Lynch Mob attacked six women between November 1998 and May 1999, police said. Each of the victims was abducted while walking alone or after being separated from a group, and all but one were attacked at nighttime. Each of the victims was raped at least twice, according to Detective A.D. Williams, of the 7th District's violent crimes unit, who has investigated the attacks.
The attacks troubled residents of the Congress Heights and Anacostia areas, who held a community forum at New United Baptist Church in February to discuss the assaults and residents' concerns about not being adequately informed by police.
In April, Ward 8 activist Sandra Seegars, joined by 7th District police and representatives of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, organized self-defense classes for neighborhood women. Another class is planned for this month.
Seventh District Cmdr. Winston Robinson Jr. said police are confident they will be able to close the cases soon. On July 24, officers arrested a 27-year-old Southeast Washington man in the Dec. 26 rape of a Wells Fargo security guard who was on her way to work when she was attacked in the 2300 block of High Street SE.
The suspect and two accomplices, whom police are still seeking, are also believed to be responsible for two rapes that occurred on New Year's Eve: one in the same block of High Street and one in the 2100 block of 18th Street SE, Williams said.
Police are also considering the three men's possible involvement in three other rapes: a Nov. 30 attack in the 2300 block of Elvans Road SE, a March 31 attack in the 1300 block of Howard Road SE, and a May 26 attack in the 1300 block of Morris Road SE.
Robinson said the number of assaults, and the fact that more than one attacker took part in each, made the cases "very, very unusual."
Overall, sexual assaults in the 7th District are down 35 percent from last year, Robinson said. However, he said, many women in the community remain at risk.
"We have a high percentage of women who live by themselves and young girls who live in this community," Robinson said. "A lot of them, I would say 95 percent of them, do not have their own mode of transportation. They depend a great deal on public transportation. They become accustomed to doing things for themselves."
Except for one 6 p.m. attack, all of the rapes occurred between 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., Williams said.
The Lynch Mob, the gang believed to be responsible, used to operate in the Washington Highlands section but is believed to have dispersed, police said. Its members still may keep in contact with one another, Williams said.
The arrest has brought little comfort to Seegars, who complained that police have been too slow to respond to residents' fears.
Women "are leery of going out at night by themselves or leaving their doors open," Seegars said. "Women in the whole 7th District are very, very afraid."
In August, Seegars noted, a 14-year-old girl was attacked behind Wilkinson Elementary School by a boy, believed to be about 16, who took her to a wooded area and raped her. Robinson said that case is unrelated to the Morris Road area rapes and is still unsolved.
Williams asked anyone with information about the attacks or about similar assaults that haven't been reported to call 7th District detectives at 202-698-1286 or 202-698-1295.