Marking the first anniversary of the official police statement that a serial killer was preying on women in the streets of South-Central Los Angeles, a coalition of 31 women's organizations announced Tuesday that it will step up efforts to help bring the slayer to justice.
Representatives of Take Back the Night Coalition said they will stage a mass candlelight vigil and rally in Exposition Park on Oct. 25 to increase public awareness of the 17 brutal murders attributed to the Southside Serial Slayer.
Claire Kaplan, media co-chair of the umbrella organization, was reluctant to predict numbers for the demonstration, but she said that about 5,000 people took part in an anti-pornography vigil and rally sponsored by the coalition in the spring of 1981.
The purpose of the Take Back the Night Coalition "is to raise public awareness that violence against any woman is violence against all women, and to apply pressure to those who wield the power to change these intolerable situations," Kaplan said at a news conference.
The coalition has held weekly vigils outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in connection with the Southside Serial killings for the last three months.
Margaret Prescod of the Black Coalition Fighting Serial Murders, a frequent critic of the department's investigation of the slayings, expressed some praise for police efforts Tuesday. "We think there's been great movement on the part of the Los Angeles Police Department since the (joint Police-Sheriff's departments) task force was formed in January with 13 members," she said. "It now has 47 to 52 members."
However, Prescod renewed her criticism of the police for labeling victims as prostitutes because, she said, it tends to make the public think they weren't "real women," deserving of protection.
"We hear 'prostitutes' and that's the end of it," she said. She also criticized the media for not delving more deeply into the lives of the victims.
Police have said that all but the last of the victims either have records of arrests for prostitution or that investigators have been given information by families or associates that they engaged in prostitution. Police also have said that neither the profession nor the race of the victims has had any bearing on the intensity of their investigations.
Detectives of the Southside Serial Killer Task Force, many of them among the most experienced homicide investigators in their departments, have checked out thousands of clues in the case and have released several composite drawings of a suspect in the case. He is a black male, 28 to 35 years old, 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, with black curly hair.
Top police officials and South-Central community leaders have been meeting periodically to discuss the progress of the investigation and ways in which citizens, churches and service organizations can aid detectives. Rewards totaling $35,000 are being offered for the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers.
The coalition's news conference came one year to the day from the police announcement that a serial killer was at large in South-Central Los Angeles. At that time, the number of known victims was 10. All were linked by the fact that they had been stabbed, strangled and dumped in alleys, almost all of them in the South-Central area.
Further investigation linked other previous murders, the first discovered on Sept. 4, 1983, to the same killer or killers. The last known victim, believed to be the 17th, was found July 25 on the grounds of the 66th Street School.