Thursday, November 30, 2006

Peeper incidents reported

UCPD is investigating possible connections to similar cases that occurred this summer

Residents of some off-campus apartments in Westwood have reported seeing a peeper looking inside their windows over the past few weeks – incidents which are similar to at least five prowler and peeper cases that were reported over the summer.

No perpetrators were ever identified or caught.

UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young confirmed separate incidents were reported in apartments on Roebling and Landfair avenues within the past several weeks, but does not have information that links the recent incidents with the previous occurrences. Detectives are investigating any possible connections between the recent incidents and the ones reported earlier in the year, he said.

One apartment resident, who did not wish to be named for safety reasons, said she called the police last Tuesday evening after seeing a face peering through her bathroom window when she was getting out of the shower.

She said she hit the window after she noticed the peeper, and then he fled. She called the police afterward.

"The police did a really good job. ... They handled it well, and I felt safe," she said, adding that two officers came to her apartment, and while one looked around the area, the other questioned her.

She said she believes the suspect, whom she described as male, is a resident of her building, and said one of her male roommates also previously saw a face in the window while taking a bath.

"I don't feel safe in my own apartment," she said. "The scary thing is I caught him once. ... I don't know how many other times it has happened," she said.

But Young said these incidents are rare. He did not indicate whether there were any proactive plans by university police to curtail further incidents.

"Off-campus housing nearby is safe," Young said, noting crime is generally low, and the area is busy and well-populated.

Another female student, who also did not wish to be named for safety reasons, reported that she and her roommates have seen somebody watching them on four separate occasions over the last year. Other residents in the same building have complained of similar problems.

During the most recent encounter, the student said she was alone in her bedroom when she noticed a shadow outside her window. She added that her roommates have seen a figure looking into their window while they were in the bathroom, but she could not confirm whether it was the same person each time.

She said after contacting police, she was told to put up sheets and newspapers over the windows.

But Young said the police do not normally recommend covering up windows because then residents cannot see outside.

He instead encourages apartment residents to keep blinds and curtains drawn and to keep a light on to show the apartment is occupied.

The student said that because of the incidents, she now checks "every nook and corner" of her apartment and refuses to be alone in her apartment.

"It's such a violating feeling. We definitely want to do something about it. ... I'm scared to be alone," she said.

Young said UCPD offers services to UCLA students, including inspecting apartments for security vulnerabilities and offering advice for improvements in order to encourage students to help protect themselves.

The student said her property manager installed lights outside her apartment balcony in response to the incidents, but she hopes access to the balcony, which is a route to her apartment window, will also be shut off.

Young also suggested that students program UCPD's phone number into their cell phones, immediately call police if they notice suspicious activity and try to provide a description, including the suspect's appearance, clothing and the direction he or she runs.