DETROIT (FOX 2) - UPDATE: Detroit Police Chief James Craig is holding an unscheduled press conference at Southeastern High School where he was appearing for an unrelated matter. Watch it live on FOX 2 News Now on Facebook or at FOX2detroit.com/live
The Detroit Police Department will be stepping up efforts to search every vacant home on the city's east side as officers continue to search for a suspected serial killer they say is targeting sex workers.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Friday that 40 neighborhood police officers would be searching in teams of teams of two to go into every open and abandoned home in the next two weeks.
The searches are in connection to a possible serial killer that Police Chief James Craig announced on Wednesday. Craig said three women have been killed since mid March and all of them were lured into abandoned homes, raped, and then killed.
"There's such similarity that it's certainly a strong possibility that one individual was responsible for all three," Duggan said Friday.
Craig has said that investigators do not yet have a profile of the suspect - but do know his signature. Out of a concern of inspiring copycat, Craig would not reveal that trademark signature - and would not say if they've collected DNA.
So far, only the first death has been ruled a homicide; a cause of death has not been determined for the other two women. Despite that, Craig said he felt strong enough in his belief that one person is responsible for all three deaths.
"Rather than wait (for another victim), he felt it was important to warn community about this possibility," Duggan said.
Duggan agreed, saying there could be more victims in vacant homes across Detroit. He said officers would be searching every home and, once determined they were cleared of victims, they would be certified to be boarded up.
"1,000 homes on the east side need boarded up. Teams are on overtime, working six days a week. The goal is to have every single house on east side boarded up by end of July," Duggan said.
He said there are also 1,000 homes on the west side and the goal is to have all vacant homes in the city boarded up by the end of September.
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Duggan acknowledged that people can pry the boards of windows and doors and asks people who see this happen to call 313-267-4600 and report what's happening.
"We have to remove blight from this community," Duggan said.
To date, Duggan said there are 21,000 homes that have been boarded up. Of those, only 3,000 can be renovated and sold.
Duggan said they're knocking down between 3,500 and 4,000 homes each year that are within the federal demolition zone. The three women were all found in abandoned homes that were not part of the federal demolition zone, even though they were vacant and abandoned.
The homes that have been demolished in Detroit have been paid for a federal grant that applies to homes owned by the Land Bank. That money runs out in the spring and Duggan is pushing a $200 million to bond to remove the rest of the boarded up homes. He says, if approved, the bond would remove the rest of the boarded up homes in five years.
According to Craig, the serial killer first struck on March 19th. Craig said another woman was killed on May 24 and a third victim was found Wednesday morning when police were called to a vacant home on Mack Avenue near Mount Elliot.