Fear turns into resistance in Phoenix

Published July 30, 2006

PHOENIX - With two serial killers on the loose in Phoenix, Marnie Reiher knows she should stay off her front porch. She shouldn't answer the door. And if the cats sneak out at night, she should leave them till morning.

"But then I'd be giving in," said Reiher, 36, who refuses to hunker down even though she lives a few blocks from where one of the killers struck. "I'd be imprisoning myself."

It is a common feeling in this city of 1.5-million, where the killers have randomly shot dozens of people since May 2005, killing 13. While many still shutter themselves in their homes, more and more have decided to fight back.

They are patrolling their neighborhoods at night, cell phones and emergency whistles in hand. Some have started block watch groups, while others have donned the red berets and white T-shirts of the Guardian Angels, who are starting a chapter here.

At community meetings, women remind each other of the safety advice they heard while growing up: Squeeze a car key between your fingers and you have a knife. Wear your purse in the front so someone can't strangle you with the strap. Keep your head up. Make eye contact. Kick a male attacker in the groin.

"It's not like we didn't know there are crimes in Phoenix," said Wendy Fields, 42, who delivers rental tuxedos. "But we always thought they were in another part of town. Guess what? The shootings are right here where we live."

Every night last week, Fields marched through her neighborhood after work and stood sentry in a park with the Guardian Angels.

"This is a nice place," she said. "I want to keep it that way."

Police have no suspects.

They say it appears the attacks started more than a year ago, beginning with a gunman who fires from a car and has been dubbed the Serial Shooter. That assailant is thought to have killed five people, wounded 17 and targeted horses and dogs, too.

Another predator known as the Baseline Killer, so-called because some of the killings took place near Baseline Road, is thought to be responsible for eight slayings and 11 sexual assaults since August. In all but one case, his victims were women.

Reiher also has been making safety whistles for everyone in the neighborhood. She attaches them to bright, stretchy bracelets and adds a luggage tag with a message for both the wearer and any would-be attacker: "Not me."