Incidents of peeping toms lead to questions on residence hall security

A trend of “peeping toms” has risen within the University Residence Halls, the last two occurring within Hopkins Hall at 1208 South First St., Champaign.

The University Police Department reported the fourth of invasion of privacy incident for this semester just this Monday. A female resident of Hopkins Hall, 1208 South First St., Champaign, was showering in the fourth floor bathrooms around 2:40 a.m. when she saw a cell phone protrude from a gap in the stalls. After calling out the suspect fled, and about two to three minutes after the victim resumed showering she saw the cell phone, and screamed again. The suspect then fled again, and slipped on the wet floor on his way out.

According to the report, the unknown offender was described to be a skinny male, possibly Asian, from 5’6” to 5’7” tall, with black hair, glasses, and small hands and feet. His cell phone reportedly appeared to be an iPhone.

Just last week on Oct. 12, a female resident on the third floor of Hopkins Hall observed what she believed was a cell phone protruding from a neighboring stall, attempting to photograph her while she was showering. No description of the suspect was given on the report.

Director of University Housing Jack Collins said that preventative measures are currently being discussed, although they’re not planning to completely renovate every bathroom. “One action would be the possibility of locking bathrooms”, Collins said.

He also said they may consider installing cameras outside of the bathroom doors.

Kaitlyn Hornik, freshman in ACES and neighbor of the victim in Hopkins, was present when the victim and their floor’s Resident Advisor filed the police report. She said she was not very convinced with security in the dormitory bathrooms.

“Sometimes the doors were propped open, and then just anyone could sneak in,” she said.

“I don’t think the doors should ever be propped, but it seems to me that it’s the residents who prop the doors, not us”, said Collins. “A staff member may prop the door when they’re cleaning. That’s reasonable, but the doors shouldn’t be propped open outside of cleaning times”, he said.

Collins was also concerned about students propping the doors open if locks are installed into all residence hall bathrooms.

Invasive cell phone photography hasn’t been a rare incident for the University Residence Halls, with only four incidents occurring in the entire 2009-2010 school year alone. A single incident was reported at the Florida Avenue Residence Halls in Oct. 2009 involving a mirror instead of a video device and another two in the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall at 906 W. College Court, Urbana, Ill., the latest occurring in Feb. 2010. Two were reported at Allen Hall in both months of August and September this semester, with only one incident involving invasive photography.

Natasha Sharp, sophomore in LAS and Allen Hall resident, said she was the first to respond when she heard a girl scream from her floor’s bathroom. While she said she did feel her RA may not have alerted her via e-mail for every incident, she also felt secure in that “it’s just a matter of being self aware of your surroundings”.

“If it happens, smack the phone off his hand and try to grab it,” Sharp said, “And if you can see him, be able to describe him.”

Sharp said she wasn’t worried about dorm security.

“We (are) nice (here), we hold doors open for people if we don’t them. Girls sometimes bring their boyfriends into the bathrooms. Here in a co-ed dorm, it’s not so much of a big deal, because a guy can peep just by walking past an open bathroom,” Sharp said. “It may just be a matter of changing the showers and closing them off completely.”

The University Police Department strongly encourages students to stay safe and alert when alone, keep doors and windows locked at all times and to report suspicious activity when seen.