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Officials promise changes as H.B. police seek clues in recent attempted sexual assault

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Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy briefs residents Wednesday night at a town hall meeting at Marine View Middle School.
(Julia Sclafani)

Huntington Beach residents turned out for a town hall meeting Wednesday at Marine View Middle School to address public safety concerns in the wake of a recent attack on a woman that police are investigating as an attempted sexual assault.

The woman was walking in the wetlands area around Neargate Drive and Graham Street on June 3 when an assailant pulled her to the ground, according to Huntington Beach police. The attacker was described as a slightly heavy-set man wearing a dark-colored hoodie.

“The attack was not successful,” Police Chief Robert Handy said Wednesday. The woman was “slightly injured” but “able to get away on her own,” Handy said.

In response, officials are making changes in the area to “minimize any environment where one could conceal themselves,” Handy said. That will include adjusting landscaping that affects visibility or otherwise poses public safety risks.

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Huntington Beach police are investigating a June 3 attack on a woman in the wetlands area around Neargate Drive and Graham Street.
(Daily Pilot)

Claudia Ross, a 42-year resident who lives near where the attack happened, said she appreciates the response but questioned whether the city would do the work fast enough.

“I’m going to get a band of ladies and we are going to come with our clippers,” Ross said.

Handy said the city plans by early July to address an overgrown shrub that conceals an approximately 3-foot opening between the foliage and a retaining wall near the scene of the attack.

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Ross said she would “give them till August” before she takes to renegade landscaping.

“We’ve had a couple of sexually related offenses in the area,” Handy said. One of those involved indecent exposure near a school.

Private cameras are playing an increasing role in police investigations, prompting officers to scour areas near crime scenes for possible footage and “get our hands on whatever we can,” Handy said.

“The person came or went somehow,” he said. “We want to see if we can find any hint of that.”

Handy briefed residents on the current state of crime in the city.

“Property crime is up 13%,” said Handy, emphasizing that “almost all of that is storage burglaries.” Other frequent targets, he said, are unlocked cars.

“Every single night, somewhere in Huntington Beach we have someone steal something from an unlocked car,” Handy said. “They are looking for an opportunity.

“Our crime rate would go down significantly if people locked up their stuff.”

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