WPD: Suspected Peeping Tom targeting apartments near campus

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WPD: Suspected Peeping Tom targeting apartments near campus

Off-campus apartments across 17th Street are popular residences for students to live. The Wichita Police Department warned Fairmount residents to be on lookout for a Peeping Tom who watches people secretly through their windows.

Off-campus apartments across 17th Street are popular residences for students to live. The Wichita Police Department warned Fairmount residents to be on lookout for a Peeping Tom who watches people secretly through their windows.

Audrey Korte

Off-campus apartments across 17th Street are popular residences for students to live. The Wichita Police Department warned Fairmount residents to be on lookout for a Peeping Tom who watches people secretly through their windows.

Audrey Korte

Audrey Korte

Off-campus apartments across 17th Street are popular residences for students to live. The Wichita Police Department warned Fairmount residents to be on lookout for a Peeping Tom who watches people secretly through their windows.

Students living near campus might want to close their blinds or invest in thick curtains to protect themselves from prying eyes. 

Wichita Police Officer Chad Burnett warned members of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association Thursday to be on the lookout for a man who secretly watches people through their windows. This type of voyeur is often called a Peeping Tom. 

Burnett told the association that the suspected Peeping Tom is targeting students at the off-campus apartments at 3800 E 16th St. N, and in the surrounding Fairmount neighborhood.

“He’s a runner,” Burnett said at the meeting. “He targets male college students.”

Burnett said the suspect is a black male in his late thirties. He also said the suspect is deaf.

On Monday, Burnett told The Sunflower that the suspect has never been caught. He was active in the area years ago. Now he’s active again.

“We haven’t caught him in the act,” Burnett said. “We used to chase this guy around like 15 years ago for similar stuff.”

Burnett said WPD did arrest the man for similar offenses.

Recently, some officers brought it to Burnett’s attention that they were trying to figure out who was responsible for recent window peeping in the neighborhood. 

“I was like, hey, that’s a good one. He does live over there in the area and he has been seen walking in the area,” Burnett said. “We opened up a project on it just so the officers are all aware of it — just to make sure everybody’s kind of being vigilant in the area.”

Wichita State Police Chief Rodney Clark said he is not aware of any recent complaints about Peeping Toms on campus.

“If students or anyone saw this behavior they should call the police,” Clark said. “As the apartments are off-campus, the Wichita Police Department would have jurisdiction in this area.”

 

Don’t want cops on your doorstep? WPD will call you instead

Police Lieutenant Sarah Oldridge said that if neighborhood residents see suspicious behavior and want to report it, but aren’t comfortable having an officer show up on their doorstep, for whatever reason, the department has a solution. 

“We always tell people, if you want to call 911, you can have an officer contact you by phone,” Oldridge said. 

“We encourage folks (to) call 911 and say, ‘I don’t want an officer at my front door. But will you have them call me so that we can discuss it?’”

By having an officer call back, the police will be able to get accurate information and ask questions and a resident doesn’t have to be seen as a snitch, Oldridge said.

 

How do you deal with a Peeping Tom?

According to a definition from USLegal.com, a Peeping Tom is a person who secretly peeks into windows and other openings with the purpose of getting a sexual thrill from seeing people undress or couples having sex. It is a slang term for a voyeur. Sometimes they photograph or record people as well.

“What I would say is if someone sees something that doesn’t look right, try to get away from that and tell someone about it,” said Kathy Williams, executive director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC). 

She said if a student sees anyone lurking at a window, they should not try to intervene — for their own safety.

“Call somebody,” she said. “Make sure that you’re in a safe place when you do that. If someone is bold enough to do that, we don’t know what else they’re capable of.” 

Peeping Tom laws make it a crime to view, photograph, or record a person without his or her consent. Peeping Tom statutes require that the victim did not realize they were being viewed and that the victim was fully or partially naked. The viewing needs to take place somewhere that the victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

A reasonable expectation of privacy can be expected in locations such as private homes or apartments, hotel rooms, dressing rooms, college dorm rooms, and restrooms. 

City ordinance Sec. 5.90.010. – Window peeping (Ord. No. 33-912; Ord. No. 25-239 § 1) states:

“Any person, other than the occupants of the room, dwelling, apartment, rooming house or apartment house involved, who goes upon private property, without the permission of the owner or lessee thereof, and looks into such room, dwelling, apartment, rooming house or apartment house is guilty of “window peeping,” a misdemeanor, and any person convicted thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars and/or six months’ imprisonment.”

Williams said that closing the curtains and being vigilant is a good idea, but it isn’t going to prevent the behavior or guarantee safety. 

“No one’s ever 100% safe,” she said.

 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Cover your windows with heavy curtains to deter a Peeping Tom from preying on you. Remember to close the curtains at night, and every time you change. 
  • If you suspect that you are being spied on, keep the curtains closed at all times.
  • Install motion-sensing lights around your residence. Motion-sensor lights will startle a voyeur and alert you if anyone comes near a window.
  • Call the police immediately. Do not engage the suspect. Even if he is not caught, the sirens and police lights could make them think twice about returning.
  • Write down a description of any suspicious characters or people hanging out somewhere they don’t belong. Be sure to note the time and exact location. This information can be shared with police.