Early last Saturday, two female Cornell students awoke to a stranger standing in their room, according to an Ithaca Police crime alert. A third student awoke to an arm groping at her through her window, the screen of which had been opened from outside.
“I was really out of it and don’t remember much, which actually scares me more that I don’t know what he … had been doing,” the third victim told the Sun.
“I yelled at him and he proceeded to take his arm out of the window and leave,” she said. “Well, I also was trying to slam his arm in my window so I guess you pick your battles.”
A friend then closed the window and checked the area before the two called the police.
The collegetown area where the man was reported — Linden Avenue, College Avenue, and Catherine Street — has been victimized before.
Last September, an intruder of similar appearance was reported to have entered four different young ladies” rooms along the same streets. Other disturbances, generally occurring early in the morning, had been reported the previous summer.
In fact, similar “peeping tom” incidents were traced back through various newspaper archives to 1999, although descriptions of the perpetrator were not consistently available.
The current suspect’s description is a “white male, approximately 5’8” to 6′ 0” tall, possibly with his hair pulled back in a ponytail,” according to the Ithaca Police Department crime alert.
One victim, whose apartment was intruded twice last semester, recently recounted to the Sun her experience.
“It was probably two in the morning, and my door to my bedroom was locked, and it sounded like somebody was running and bashing into my door, and trying to get the door open,” she said. “I’m yelling to the person, ‘Who is this?’ And they just kept saying, ‘It’s me, it’s me, just open door.'”
When she tried to call the police, the intruder starting pulling on the wires that lead under the door. “It was really scary, but I actually called 911 and he must have heard that,” she said.
The young lady’s friend, who had been victimized the month before, heard the commotion and came to help. “He walked into her room so she was able to run and close the door on him basically. She said she was pretty positive he was the same person [who had trespassed previously],” the young lady said.
The police arrived “within minutes” after the intruder left, according to the young lady.
“The cop’s really did not care,” she said. “They barely looked around and said, ‘yup, he’s not here. Ok, must be a peeping tom.’ It’s not really a peeping tom when they’re trying to break your door down.”
She said that the police told her the break-in occurred because she didn’t “live in a safe house and should expect this kind of thing.”
“The cops were like, take it up with your landlords. That’s their problem, not ours,” she said.
When she did take up the problem of the non-locking doors with the landlords, she says that the response was disappointing.
“They said that, oh, they don’t want to hurt you,” she said. “But the door still didn’t even lock on the back of the house.”
“I don’t think people I realize how often this happens,” she said.
Last weekend’s victim agreed. “I’ve heard of other incidents — but of course never thought it would happen to me,” she told the Sun. She also offered some advice to others.
“I thought nothing of sleeping with my window open because it was hot out — but what I didn’t realize was that my window screen didn’t have those slidey-click things on them,” she said. “It just completely slides up and down with nothing in it’s way. I would check out the window and if they have a screen like mine — ask your landlord to switch it.”
She also recommended to have individual room locks on doors, and to keep blinds shut when one is in the room.
“The fact that this man seems to be getting braver scares me,” she added. “Before there were reports that he just comes into apartments, houses and rooms and watches people. The fact that now he’s touching people makes me wonder what he’ll do next.”
Indeed, the Caribbean Students Association Dance Ensemble has recently been harassed twice by a man masturbating during their practices, with the culprit still eluding authorities.
“[The police] were supposed to protect us and they didn’t do their job,” a member of that group said after the second incident.
The Ithaca Police department was not able to comment in time for this article.
Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer