Peeping Tom incident on campus raises student anxiety

Braun Hall at Occidental College, Friday, Sept. 27. Rodriguez said Braun is her favorite hall to work in. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

Aug. 24, three days after first-year students moved into dormitories, a man was seen looking through the blinds of first-year rooms, according to a campus-wide email from Campus Safety Aug. 25. According to later emails following the event, campus security has since increased its patrols and bolstered their nighttime security presence to prevent further incidents of this nature.

“Students are obviously very, very upset,” Julia Carrigan (sophomore), a resident advisor (RA) at Braun Hall, said.

Carrigan said the event was especially frightening since it was the first years’ third day of living on campus.

Rick Tanksley, director of Campus Safety, sent out multiple emails during the week encouraging students to draw blinds, travel in groups and report anything they see to Campus Safety. According to Tanksley, the campus has dealt with Peeping Tom incidents before, and said the incidents tend to follow a pattern of occurring under the cover of darkness, with the perpetrators typically being male.

“In California, invading someone’s privacy by recording or ‘peeping’ at someone who is in a situation where they expect privacy — such as in a dressing room, bathroom or dorm room — can be a criminal offense, in addition to being a violation of the College’s Sexual Misconduct policy,” Tanksley wrote in a campus-wide email.

Project SAFE Intake and Programs Coordinator, Stephani Candelaria, said she wishes to provide students with advice in order to combat the anxiety around campus about this Peeping Tom. According to Candelaria, it is important to get to know your neighbors and develop relationships with other students living around you. She said taking an active role in the safety of yourself and your peers is going to be crucial in times like this.

“Having a sense of community accountability, like all of our eyes are open for each other, not just for ourselves,” said Candelaria. “Being familiar with where campus safety is located, even introducing yourself to some of the officers as you see them patrolling.”

According to Tanksley, having a Peeping Tom on campus raises the anxiety level, with students worrying about their safety and privacy.

“It’s very important for people to know what’s going on regarding safety and security matters on campus and the surrounding community, and what actions are being taken to address the particular threat,” Tanksley said. If people are aware of threats in their environment, whether on or off campus, they can then take necessary steps to protect themselves.”

Six days after the initial incident, another first-year student, Student A*, saw a man looking into Braun windows and recorded the incident on their phone. Student A said they were surprised and shocked to have caught the suspect of a criminal act.

“(It was) just disgusting,” Student A said. “It was definitely one of the creepiest, kind of scariest things I’ve ever seen. I saw a man, platinum blonde hair wearing a black outfit, crouched up against the wall, peeking through windows of girls’ rooms.”

According to Tanksley, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) have increased patrols around campus. Because of the increased patrols, the alleged intruder may not return, he said.

Student A, who recorded the alleged Peeping Tom, said they were relieved to see more campus safety officers patrolling around the dorms.

“The past few days, I’ve been on my balcony there’s been like, three security people walking, checking up,” Student A said.

According to Candelaria, situations like this are especially jarring since there is no immediate resolution.

“When these incidents occur, it’s important to contact Campus Safety immediately at 323-259-2599,” Tanksley said. “If the subject is not a member of the community we can cover certain exit routes from the college in hopes of detaining the subject for the police.”

Should a student need to file a report about Peeping Tom incidents or otherwise, they can do so via the LiveSafe app. According to Tanksley, the app allows students to communicate directly with campus safety officers via text-style messaging and includes a GPS feature should students wish to share their location with friends and family members. More information about the app can be found on the campus safety webpage.

*The name of Student A has been omitted in this article for their privacy, in accordance with our anonymous source policy. For more information on anonymity, visit our Frequently Asked Questions.