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Rash of indecent exposure plagues north campus neighborhood

By Alyssa Evans

A student receiving a notification from Western Alerts about a flashing near North Garden street. // Photo illustration by Caleb Galbreath
  A Western student was sitting in her parked car near the intersection of High Street and Billy Frank Jr. Street when a white male in dark clothing approached her window and exposed his genitals around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6. “I thought my headlight was out or something but he didn’t lean down at all,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous. “He just walked up to the car and exposed himself.” The Bellingham Police Department confirmed they received a call from this individual, though a police report has not yet been released. “I never expected something like this to happen,” she said. “I’m definitely not going to walk by myself anymore.” The student usually parks on High Street as most of her classes are located on the north end of campus, though she no longer feels comfortable parking there, she said. This was the latest incident in a string of flashing and voyeurism cases near campus that have occurred in the last three months. Indecent Exposure on campus since October A Western student was walking on North Garden Street in the evening on Nov. 5, 2015, headed home from campus. Near Laurel Park, she encountered what she described to police as a white male in his 20’s with dark hair and a white hooded sweatshirt masturbating with his pants down. “I don’t walk that way anymore. I don’t walk at all,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t feel safe, and it’s really awful.” There have been six reports of indecent exposure and two possible cases of voyeurism north of campus since late October, according to the Bellingham Police Department. They have yet to confirm if the cases are connected and no arrests have been made. “It wasn’t until I was talking to other people later on that I realized nobody knew [these incidents] had been going on and nobody knew that it had been happening in that area before and continues to,” the student said. During January and February of 2014, similar cases occurred near campus, ranging from High Street to Nevada Street, according to Bellingham Police Department records. Sophomore Jacob Abegglen said he was considering living on north campus next year, but hearing about the most recent series of flashing and voyeurism has given him pause. “It is really weird hearing about things like this,” Abegglen said. “I need to be aware of those things when I’m choosing a house. I need to know who my neighbors are going to be.” To help prevent these incidents from recurring, Bellingham Police Department Officer  Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said he encourages residents take a look at their own homes. “Go outside at night. Close your blinds and look into the rooms to see what you can see,” he said. “If you can see anything, then you need to find a way to make it so someone couldn’t.” Vander Yacht also recommends checking the lighting around homes and trimming down any shrubbery people could conceal themselves in. When walking around at night, Vander Yacht said it is important for students to be aware of their surroundings. “If you’re going to be walking around at night, either let people know where you are going to be walking to, or more importantly, walk with someone. The buddy system works,” Vander Yacht said. “Having a flashlight or something that can illuminate your way is also something good to have.” Indecent exposure is a form of sexual harassment. In Washington State, indecent exposure is a misdemeanor and can result in up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Voyeurism is a form of sexual exploitation and considered sexual misconduct. Under Washington state law, voyeurism is a class C felony. Committing indecent exposure or voyeurism as a Western student constitutes a violation of the Student Rights and Responsibilities Code, which can result in a number of sanctions including loss of privileges, restriction from contacting others, treatment programs, campus relocation, suspension from the university and expulsion from the university, according to the Office of Student Life’s website. If you or someone you know has been affected by violence, please feel free to call Western’s Consultation & Sexual Assault Support center at (360) 650-3700. CASAS is a safe and confidential resource where all students are welcome. Anyone with information about these incidents or similar ones is asked to contact the Bellingham Police Department at (360) 778-8800. If you have information about similar activities occurring on Western’s campus, please contact University Police at (360) 650-3555. For emergencies call 911. The Bellingham Police Department received reports of the following incidents:

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015: Around 8:55 p.m. in the 600 block of East Maple Street, a woman reported seeing a camera-like flash outside her window through an opening in her blinds. When looking outside she saw condensation on her window as if someone had been breathing on it. Another woman in the same house reported that around 1 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, she heard a voice and looked outside her window to see a man touching his genitals. She could not give a full description of the suspect.
  • Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015: In the 600 block of North Garden Street, a woman was talking on her cell phone around 6:40 p.m. when she saw a man touching his genitals. The man was described as a white male in his 20’s with dark hair and a white hooded sweatshirt.
  • Monday, Nov. 30, 2015: A woman called police around 11:45 p.m. from the 900 block of North Garden Street to report that, after hearing a knock on her window, she had seen a man holding a tablet showing an image of a penis. He was described as college-age with shaggy brown hair.
  • Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015: Around 8:20 p.m. in the 900 block of North Garden Street, a woman reported seeing a man touching himself outside her window. The man was described as around 18-25 years of age with brownish-blond hair. A second woman reported seeing a man engage in similar activity.
  • Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015: Around 11:15 p.m. in the 1000 block of North Garden Street,  two women reported seeing a man outside their window. The man’s jeans were partly down and he held a cellphone flashlight to his exposed genitals.

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