Neighbours have said they called police on at least two occasions to check on the peeling, rundown Ohio house where three women, who vanished separately about a decade ago, were being held.
And police said they visited the Cleveland house twice over two unrelated incidents.
While the rescue of the women on Monday exhilarated and astonished the Midwestern US city, police are facing questions about their handling of the case.
One neighbour said she called police after her daughter saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the back garden of the house a few years ago. Another said he called after hearing pounding on the doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.
Police arrived at the house both times, the neighbours say, but never went inside.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s.
Authorities arrested three brothers, aged 50 to 54. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, in a poor neighbourhood dotted with boarded-up houses.
The break in the case came when the 27-year-old Ms Berry kicked out the bottom of a locked screen door at the home and used a neighbour’s telephone to call police. Choking back tears, she breathlessly told the dispatcher: “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”
Police arrived to find the two other women, along with a six-year-old girl who authorities said was believed to be Ms Berry’s daughter. Police would not say who the father was or where the child was born.
Authorities would not say how the women were taken captive, whether they were restrained inside the house or if they had been sexually assaulted. Police said they were trying to be delicate in their questioning of the women.
Cleveland police came under heavy criticism in a separate case a few years ago following the discovery of 11 bodies in a man’s home and back garden in another poor section of the city.
Neighbours had long complained about foul odours and the victims’ families claimed police did not take the reports of missing women seriously.
City safety director Martin Flask said of the latest case: “At this point, I can confirm that we have no indications that any of the neighbours, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house.”
But he said authorities were still checking databases of calls to police, fire and emergency services.
Two neighbours said they were alarmed enough by what they saw at the house to call police on two occasions.
Elsie Cintron said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the back garden several years ago and called police. “But they didn’t take it seriously,” she said.
Another neighbour, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro’s house, which had plastic bags on the windows, in November 2011. Mr Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. “They walked to the side of the house and then left,” he said.
Neighbours also said they would see Castro sometimes walking a little girl to a neighbourhood playground. And Ms Cintron said she once saw a little girl looking out of the attic window.
“Everyone in the neighbourhood did what they had to do,” said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. “The police didn’t do their job.”
Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women’s disappearance, officials said.
In 2000, before the women vanished, Ariel Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Mr Flask said.
In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Ariel Castro, a school bus driver, had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Mr Flask said. No one answered the door.
At some point in the investigation, police talked to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent, he said.
Police identified the three suspects as Ariel Castro, 52; Pedro Castro, 54; and Onil Castro, 50.
Ariel Castro was well known in the mainly Puerto Rican neighbourhood. He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands, gave children rides on his motorcycle and joined others at a candlelight vigil to remember two of the missing girls, neighbours said. They also said they would sometimes see him walking a little girl to a neighbourhood playground.
Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina DeJesus, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro’s house but never noticed anything out of the ordinary, saying it had very little furniture and was filled with musical instruments.
“I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened,” he said.
A relative of three brothers arrested in Cleveland said their family was “totally shocked”.
Juan Alicea said the arrests of his wife’s brothers left relatives “as blindsided as anyone else” in their community.
Mr Alicea said he had dinner with Castro at a different brother’s house shortly before the arrests were made but had not been to the home of his brother-in-law Ariel Castro since the early 1990s.