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DALLAS -- There was a sense of togetherness inside Aikin Elementary Wednesday night. A community is determined to find a wanted man, and police are determined to keep that community safe.

A few dozen residents gathered at a hastily-called meeting to hear an update on the investigation into two early-morning attempted sexual assaults in North Dallas near Richland College.

Both attacks happened in the 9200 block of Flickering Shadow Drive. The first was May 20 at 6:45 a.m., the second occurred June 4 at 7:20 a.m. Both victims are white women, one in her 30's and the other in her 50's. Police say both women were out walking their dogs when a man wearing a skull cap approached them and began talking. He was friendly, say police.

As the victims left, the man grabbed them and tried to sexually assault them.

Deputy Chief Andy Acord, the new commander of Dallas' Northeast Patrol, said both women screamed, which was the right thing to do. In one case, that led to a witness after a neighbor came out to help.

Also, one of the victims scratched the man, and detectives were able to retrieve DNA from her fingernails.

Acord held the public meeting because he said he needs the neighbors' help.

It builds cohesiveness with the community to know we are all in this together, he said. And quite honestly, we're soliciting help to help us solve this.

A self-defense instructor gave a few simple instructions, telling women to stay alert and aware.

Neighbor Diane Mott listened intently.

Really, I'm just a few blocks from here. That's too close for comfort, she said of the crimes.

She also expressed concern at the suspect's bold moves.

The fact that you have something with you like a dog, and that's still not a deterrent? she said, shaking her head.

Acord is employing the same tactics he used in Lake Highlands earlier in 2013, when three rapes occurred in a concentrated area. He held meetings and gave self-defense seminars, plus saturated the neighborhood with uniformed and undercover officers.

He told residents they would soon see mounted patrols and the DPD helicopter overhead, too.

A reward is being offered in this case, and all tips are anonymous. The tipline is 214-373-8477.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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