(CNN) -- Chicago police continued to search Friday for a suspect in the brutal rape of 15-year-old girl who was walking to school near one of the city's Safe Passage routes for children.
Meanwhile, as the crime put national attention again on Chicago's violence, police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy made a surprise visit to a community meeting Thursday night, where residents expressed anger and outrage over the crime.
The 15-year-old girl remains hospitalized, with a head injury suffered in the assault.
"The young lady is still on the fence, if you will, as far as how she's doing," McCarthy told the gathering of parents and other residents in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the city's northwest side.
"We're going to make sure that we catch this monster. We're going to make sure that it doesn't happen again in this community or in any other community in the city of Chicago," McCarthy added.
The 15-year-old girl was walking to her high school in predawn darkness when an assailant hit her on the head, dragged her between two houses to a yard and raped her, police said, with the assault taking place just a half-block away from one of the city's "Safe Passage" school routes especially for students.
Just this fall, local officials pledged that an expanded Safe Passages program -- with its big yellow signs above sidewalks patrolled during key times by paid, trained workers -- would be a sanctuary for children walking to and from school.
The initiative came as Chicago became the nation's homicide capital of America in 2012, according to FBI statistics.
This school year, city and school officials doubled the number of Safe Passage routes to accommodate more children being forced to walk greater distances because the school system closed a record 48 elementary schools amid a $1 billion budget shortfall. About 12,000 students are attending new schools this year because of the budget crisis, and many of them must walk through some of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods.
This week, local authorities noted that the 15-year-old victim was walking to school Tuesday morning a half-hour before her nearby Safe Passage route was staffed with patrols.
A resident found the girl half-naked and bleeding from the head on a snowy walkway at the side of his home. She lay for about two hours in the cold before she was discovered. She was conscious but barely moving when she was found, authorities said.
"Just opening up the door, and take a morning sweep of the sidewalks and to find something like that is just shocking," said Michael Klockowski, the resident on the city's northwest side who found the schoolgirl. The snow outside his home was still stained Thursday.
CNN's George Howell and Bill Kirkos reported from Chicago.