Police Calm the Fears of Hundreds at Special Crime Watch Meeting

Tyler Police's objective at Thursday's crime watch meeting was simple.... Calm people's fears by giving them solutions to protect themselves.

They also answered questions about the rape and attempted sexual assault earlier this month.

Police don't know if the attacks on Wimbledon and Hollytree drive in south Tyler involve the same suspect, but they want people prepared in the case of another attack.

"Our neighborhood was very scared and felt helpless," says Susan Gillespie.

That helpless feeling of knowing there's a rapist still out there led more than 300 people to hear what the Tyler Police Department had to say about the recent attacks. Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle put it simple to the concerned crowd, "be a nosy neighbor." It may sound wrong but it's the best way to stop and catch criminals like the South Tyler rapist. Many walked away from the meeting not feeling scared anymore, but empowered from the new knowledge.

"Essentially, the more people they have looking the better protected we can all be," says Russell Cooper. "But you have to know what to look for and how to proceed and this is a step to providing those type answers for us."

South Tyler's Crime Prevention officer hopes if this meeting accomplishes nothing else, he'll be able to depend on a new network of neighborhood crime watchers.

"I would like to have a crime watch on every street in the whole city of Tyler," says Officer James McCraw. "It serves a network for me to get them the information quicker and that was one of concerns tonight."

The concerns didn't stop there. Some people wanted to know why police didn't do more to inform people about the attacks, others simply wanted to know how to avoid being a victim. But everyone seemed to be on the same side of helping police protect us by following simple safety tips like being a good neighbor and locking your doors.

"I have an alarm system and I don't use it all the time except when I sleep," says Susan Gillespie. "And I am using it 24/7 now. It's changed my life and I get in the garage lock my doors and I use a little more precaution."

One woman who survived a similar attack last year offered praise to local police for the handling of her case. She offered a final tip to this audience full of women.

"Fight, fight back, be courageous and don't let your guard down," says a attack survivor.

Tyler Police say more than 25 new leads have been generated by the sketch of the suspect released Wednesday thanks to concerned citizens. Now they are following up on each and every tip until they catch the rapist.