HAILEY THOMAS | Photo Illustration

Peeping tom problem escalates in Rexburg

Student housing managers in Rexburg are concerned about prowlers and peeping toms near women’s housing.

Amy Smith, property manager of the Pines at Hemming Village, said some female residents complained about people peeping inside their bedroom windows at night.

“We were really proactive,” Smith said. “We contacted the police and had Hemming property managers patrolling outside and inside during evening until curfew.”

Smith said she notified each bishop who was assigned to the wards including residents from the Pines apartments.

A peeping tom is someone who secretly looks through a window, doorway, keyhole or other aperture for the purpose of voyeurism, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

Steve Bunnell, BYU-Idaho Support Services Supervisor, said University Security deals mainly with on-campus dorms, and Security has not received reports of prowling incidents for
some time.

Bunnell said there has been only one reported incident in the past five years, and it was not reported by a student.

“We caught the person in the act,” Bunnell said. “We caught them looking into a window — by their own confession — of someone they didn’t know.”

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that “men are more voyeuristic than women,” according to Psychology Today. “In the study, the single best predictor of voyeurism was frequent use of porn.”

Shelby Twitchell, a sophomore studying English education and a resident of a Hemming property, said she and a roommate witnessed a peeping tom at their apartment complex.

Twitchell said she and her roommate sat in her car in their apartment parking lot, chatting, when they saw a man dressed in black walk past the car.

He walked up the apartment stairs to a lit bedroom window and looked in.

“At first, we gave him the benefit of the doubt,” Twitchell said. “Maybe he was a friend or a boyfriend.”

Twitchell said she suspected the man was not a welcome guest because he stayed for only a few minutes and left the complex without knocking on the door.

HAILEY THOMAS | Photo Illustration

HAILEY THOMAS | Photo Illustration

Smith said she sent an email to all of the Pines residents, male and female, explaining basic safety precautions, such as pulling window blinds closed, locking the front door and observing the buddy system.

Kylie McDonald, a senior studying Theatre, lives at the Pines and said her managers came around to the women’s apartments and warned them to keep their windows closed and doors locked, especially when changing, going to bed.

“They were just making sure we knew what to do,” McDonald said. “They told us that there had been cases of peeping toms and they just wanted to make sure everyone stays safe.”

Students are not the only people in Rexburg who should be cautious and on alert. Police received report of a suspicious event on North Millhollow Road, according to the June 30 Rexburg police log.

“Complainant reported that in the last three months, she has found five used condoms, the wrappers from those condoms and several cigarette butts outside the bedroom windows around her house,” according to the police log.

Captain Randy Lewis of the Rexburg Police Department said some reports come in as disturbance of the peace, strangers or suspicious individuals, but most count as prowlers.

Lewis said there have been problems with key copying, and that managers should change apartment locks and password keys frequently.

“Somehow, they’ve got to do it,” Lewis said. “I know there’s an expense involved, but look at how many students will go through that apartment over a five-year period.”

Lewis said individuals should take safety precautions such as the buddy system, carrying a flashlight at night, parking in well-lit areas of parking lots and streets and keeping valuable items out of sight if left in the car.

“They’ve just got to be very alert to their surroundings,” Lewis said.

Jeanie Urc, property manager of The Cedars at Hemming Village, said she did not receive any complaints from female residents, but she said she could understand the potential for problems.

“Many girls leave their doors unlocked,” Urc said. “They’re too trusting.”

Urc said some residents have complained about people, mostly boyfriends, knocking on the front door then just entering.

Rebecca Christensen (name changed upon request), a resident of a Hemming property, said this is the first semester she has had experiences with people acting suspiciously.

Christensen said that one Sunday at about 10:30 p.m., she and her roommate heard a knock at the door, and they called for the guest to come in.

Christensen said four men who were large in height and weight and were wearing masks came through the doorway of her apartment.

“We asked them what their names were, but they wouldn’t tell us,” Christensen said.

Christensen said the four men came in toward the living room and looked around the wall as if they were looking for someone.

Christensen said her roommate was frightened and had dialed 911, ready to call in case something went wrong, but the men left after just a few minutes.

Christensen said she did not feel afraid, but she was worried.

The incident changed the way Christensen reacts to visitors.

“It’s made me more cautious,” Christensen said. “We don’t let just anyone into our house; we go answer the door.”

Emily Hathaway, a sophomore majoring in marriage and family studies, said she had an experience with a group of people who were staring into her kitchen window and made her feel very uncomfortable.

“It was on Thursday when it happened,” Hathaway said. “I was in my kitchen between classes and I was peeling an orange and singing to myself. I looked up, because the parking garage is right across from our window in the kitchen. The cars, the way they park faces our window. There were four people in the car, and they were all just staring at me.”

Hathaway said that inside of the car there were three women and one man.

“They were just staring at me, so I finally just turned around and closed my blinds,” Hathaway said. “Because they looked at me, then for a second looked down at their phones and then pointed and laughed.”

Hathaway said the way they were looking through her window and looking down at their phones and laughing made her feel uncomfortable.

“I closed my curtain because I was like, ‘That’s creepy,’” Hathaway said.

Lewis said the Rexburg Police Department offers free self-defense classes, called Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training. Lewis said the classes are available for everyone though they are designed for women in mind.

Lewis said prowlers usually look around with the purpose of finding something.

“They like the darkness because they can’t be identified,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the Rexburg Police Department has a database where it keeps information of identified perpetrators and their background, which helps the officers locate a perpetrator if he or she is in the area again.

“It’s a safe community, but we still have these problems every so often,” Lewis said.

Lewis said residents and students who see or experience threatening prowlers or peeping toms should contact the Rexburg Police Department.

Copyright 2015 BYU-I Scroll