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Attack rattles neighborhood

A brutal knife attack Wednesday of a woman in her back yard has residents talking about beefing up neighborhood patrols.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002

TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- Most mornings Stan Bufkin walks his Rottweiler, Nalla, around the quiet streets of his Twelve Oaks neighborhood. It's a pleasant way to get exercise and an even more pleasant way to get to know his neighbors.

"I know a lot of people because of her," says Bufkin, motioning to the big black hulk of a dog resting at his feet. But "most people don't get out and meet their neighbors."

That's something Bufkin and many of his fellow homeowners hope to change, all the more so after the brutal knife attack Wednesday of a woman in the back yard of her Malvern Circle home.

Hillsborough sheriff's officials said Eileen Klinck, 59, was ambushed around 10 a.m. Wednesday by a man wearing a ski mask and wielding a knife. Though severely injured, she managed to crawl to a neighbor's house for help. Klinck, a retired high school teacher, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and is expected to recover.

The next day, Hillsborough detectives arrested neighbor, Damion Hayes, 20. Hayes' father turned him in to authorities.

"Boy, it was a shock," said Ward, who is part of the community's Neighborhood Crime Watch program. "We did have a sense of good security, but not now."

Twelve Oaks has worked hard to stay on top of crime. Five years ago homeowners opted to pay off-duty Hillsborough sheriff's deputies to patrol their 994-home community. And last month, when it became clear there had been a sharp increase in burglaries, residents voted to start a citizen patrol.

"We felt like people wanted to get more involved," said Doreen Clauer, Twelve Oaks Neighborhood Crime Watch coordinator. "It's one thing to look out the window for suspicious activity. But when you're in bed sleeping, it's good to have people on the streets."

Many in Twelve Oaks would like to get the citizen patrol up and running quickly in light of what happened to Klinck, but it's not that easy. It takes time to arrange meetings and get a consensus on something as major as a neighborhood patrol, organizers said.

So far, 18 people have signed up to patrol, but "after this incident more people will probably want to get involved," Clauer said.

The neighborhood patrol, which is still in the planning stages, is expected to get under way in March and will rely on residents taking turns patrolling the neighborhood looking for suspicious activity. Some volunteers will take daylight patrol, others will take nights.

"We'll want to work around when the officers are on patrol," Clauer said.

According to figures supplied by the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, over the past three years Twelve Oaks averaged about one house burglary a month. But there were four home burglaries in December, prompting residents to consider other crime-fighting measures, such as neighborhood patrols.

Some kinds of crime have decreased or remained static. But offenses such as assault and battery, criminal mischief and house burglaries are on the rise.

Jesse Wilson, who has been part of the Neighborhood Crime Watch program since moving to Twelve Oaks six years ago, said he plans to take one of those patrol shifts.

"I just hope this doesn't make people afraid to come outside," Wilson said. "I'd hate to see that happen. I hope it brings the neighborhood back together."

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at 269-5308.

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