NEW ORLEANS -- On Monday at dusk in Behrman Park, you'll find people walking and biking around a trail. Children are playing.
But in what should be a positive community space, a terrible crime happened just days earlier.
Police say a 14-year-old girl was walking alone around 9:30 p.m. Friday in Behrman Park, when a man grabbed her and sexually assaulted her. It happened in the 1500 block of Florence Avenue, which is part of the park's walking trail.
“My heart goes out to her and her family because that's really a terrible situation for that young child to be in,” said Deborah Hunter, who walks in the park regularly.
Hunter said she usually feels safe in the park during the day, but would never come here at night.
“I tell any parent, keep an eye on your daughters, keep an eye on your children,” said Hunter.
The assault happened in an area with lots of trees and bushes. A neighborhood watch sign is posted near the scene of the crime. There are a few streetlights near the scene, but some regulars say that’s not enough.
Some who use this park say safety is an issue.
“I try to come in early and get out, but I don't always feel safe here,” said Albert Christopher, who bicycles through the park five days a week.
Still, 4th District Commander Brian Weiss said this is the only recent violent crime in the area. He said the area has experienced some recent car and home burglaries.
Weiss said police patrols in the area have increased since Friday’s sexual assault.
Police are working to try to find the perpetrator and bring him to justice. But Weiss doesn’t believe the man on the loose is a serial rapist.
Meanwhile, those like Hunter hope this terrible tragedy will prompt the community to be more vigilant.
“We need to get out here with them, pray for them, let's get together and make sure our kids are safe,” said Hunter.
If you have any information, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.