Self-styled superheroes have offered their help in fighting the serial killer thought to be behind the murders of over a dozen prostitutes in New York City.
The New York Initiative (NYI) – a group of vigilantes who model themselves on comic book superheroes – have posted an advert on classified ads website Craigslist offering ‘rescue teams’ for hookers whose clients’ turn violent.
NYI, who identify themselves as a group of ‘martial arts trainers, security specialists, emergency first responders, drug counsellors, former military police and former law enforcement’, are also offering free martial arts and weapons training to the women.
The murderer stalking New York – dubbed the Craiglist Killer because he targets women selling sex through Craigslist – is thought to be behind the deaths up to 13 prostitutes.
Most of the bodies so far found had been dumped in scrub land on the southern coast of Long Island, New York. All had been strangled and stuffed in burlap sacks.
According to their advert, NYI have offered their help to prostitutes because ‘apparently the law doesn’t respect your personal choices and that means cops are slower to follow through when it comes to you.’
The group is offering ‘a number to call and a few one-number or one-word codes you can say or text to us so that we can contact someone to assist you with a possibly violent date.’
They add: ‘We will react quickly and without hesitation every time, using our considerable contacts to the full extent of their reach.’ And they promise not to involve the police unless there is a risk of ‘serious danger’.
The New York Initiative patrol the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan by night, attempting to deter crime.
Though they are loosely affiliated with the so-called Real Life Superheroes, unlike their more colourfully-dressed counterparts they tend not to wear masks and capes.
According to their website the group is composed of 11 members, with roles ranging from medic to combat specialist.
‘Our primary goal will always be to help those in the most need to the highest ethical standard and to the maximum effect,’ they say.
The ‘Craigslist ripper’ case started in December after the disappearance of 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert, a New Jersey prostitute who advertised on the site.
Although her body has not been found, the remains of 10 others have so far been uncovered with Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25, Melissa Barthelemy, 24, Amber Lynn Costello, 27, and Megan Waterman, 22, the only identified victims so far.
Detectives have also investigated the possibility that the same serial killer may also be responsible for the deaths of four prostitutes in Atlantic city in 2006.
New York detectives have begun to piece together a picture of the Craigslist killer.
According to experts, the man police are looking for is a white male in his mid 20’s to mid 40’s, financially secure, well spoken and drives a nice car or truck.
Able to charm his victims into a false sense of security, he will also have access to burlap sacks as part of his job and will have been treated for poison ivy infections received as he disposed of the bodies in thick undergrowth.