Petaluma police try to allay concerns about sexual assault

- Police in Petaluma on Tuesday tried to address community concerns about a sexual assault that occurred more than a week ago.

There has been no arrest and residents say they want answers. In response, police held a community meeting to talk about the case.

It was a full house with standing room only as people packed into the gym of Grant Elementary School for the meeting.

Outside on the sports field, parents watching their 6-year-olds play soccer also expressed concern.

Sergio Aranda, a father of three daughters, said Petaluma is a safe place.

"For raising kids, this is the perfect city."

But the recent report of a sexual assault in this quiet neighborhood gives him pause.

"I was a little concerned. I also heard that no one had been caught," said Aranda.

Police tried to address such concerns during the community meeting inside the school gym.

"Everybody came here hoping to leave here feeling better about what happened on Eckmann Place," Petaluma Police Sgt. Ed Crosby told the audience.

On the morning of September 18th, a woman who lives on Eckmann Place reported that someone wearing a mask broke into her home while she was dropping off her children at school and sexually assaulted her when she returned home.

"We did detain a subject on I Street, which isn't too far from where the crime occurred," said Detective Joel Stemmer.

But police say the victim did not identify that man as her attacker.

Now investigators say they're waiting for the DNA results of evidence collected.

"It's been pushed to the front of the line to get our evidence looked at," said Stemmer.

"There's a big need to know what's happening. There's been a bit of a lack of information coming back from the police," said Petaluma resident Nicole Payte. 

Investigators explained the complexities of solving a sexual assault case.

"We're working towards that end but it's not a quick process," said Sgt. Crosby as he tried to reassure the audience while urging them to take safety precautions.

"I think there's understandable fear in the community, especially amongst women," said Payte.

"I was mugged as a young woman. Since I am now in my 50's, I've learned over the years to be very aware, very protective of myself," said Cynthia Wilcox-Rittgers.

Without an arrest, some say it's hard to rest easy.


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