Three sex workers have been found dead on Detroit's east side -- and Police Chief James Craig suspects a serial killer is at work

Detroit Police Chief James Craig
Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP/Shutterstock

A serial killer may be on the loose in Detroit.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced Wednesday that police were on the hunt for a serial killer who appears to be targeting sex workers in their 50s.

So far, three women, who have yet to be identified, have been killed.

Craig says all three women were found partially clothed or nude in various stages of decomposition when they were discovered in abandoned homes on the east side of Detroit.

“It is the same signature on all three victims,” Craig tells PEOPLE. “He is watching me to figure out what we know. I say right to him, ‘We are going to find you.’”

abandoned homes Detroit
Credit: Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty

Craig suspects that the “violent predator” most likely has been to prison and lives somewhere on Detroit’s east side.

“[Serial killers] have a higher level of comfort on the side of town they reside,” he says.

“It will be interesting once we arrest him to find out what his background is,” he says. “We are looking at other cases that have a similar signature but we haven’t found that yet.”

Craig is no stranger to serial killer investigations.

He was a vice officer in Los Angeles in the 1980s when the Grim Sleeper serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. was prowling the streets of South Central.

“This was somebody we were looking for for a good part of time while I was in LA,” he says.

Franklin was eventually caught through familial DNA testing in 2010 and was sentenced to death for the murders of 10 women and the attempted murder of another for his 23-year killing spree.

In Detroit, the decomposing body of the killer’s first victim, a Caucasian woman, was discovered March 19 inside a vacant dwelling. Craig says initially the police department believed the woman died of an overdose but on May 20 the Medical Examiner determined that she died as a result of blunt force trauma.

Four days after the coroner’s ruling, on May 24, an African American woman was found dead inside a home on the east side.

A sex worker found the third victim on Wednesday. Craig says they have yet to determine the woman’s age, ethnicity and how she died but “given the signature we think the same suspect is involved.”

abandoned homes Detroit
Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty

However, it has been a challenge attempting to determine the dates of the killings because the bodies were found in various states of decomposition so they could have been there for weeks or months. The murders have also taken place in isolated areas with no witnesses.

Craig says they are reaching out to community activists to help alert sex workers, particularly those who work inside vacant homes, that a serial killer is out there.

“We don’t have a very open trusting relationship [with sex workers],” he says. “Most of the time it is because we are enforcing the law.”

The community activists will help “open up the conversation,” he says.

“We need to make them aware there is a possibility of a serial killer targeting sex workers,” he says. “They think nobody cares. That is someone’s daughter and child. They are part of our community. I have shined a very bright light on this community.”

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Investigators are also hoping that the sex workers can provide vital clues as to who this person is.

Since the Wednesday announcement, the police department has received numerous tips.

“There have been three incidents and hopefully we won’t find any more bodies,” he says.