Campus safety responds to last week’s shower peeping incident and suspicious van activity

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Patrol Officer Jessica Hernandez after returning to the Campus Safety office at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Sunday, Sept. 19, 2019. Alden Hinden-Stevenson/The Occidental.

In the past two weeks, Campus Safety officers responded to two incidents violating the safety of Occidental students. E. Norris Blue residents reported a shower peeping incident Sept.11, and a van was reported following a student on campus Sept. 15. The incidents came less than a week after the LiveSafe app was introduced to the Occidental community, according to Director of Communications Jim Tranquada.

Director of Campus Safety Rick Tanksley sent out an email to Occidental students in response to the shower peeping incident Sept. 11.

“Out of the corner of her eye [the female student] saw what appeared to be a cell phone held up through the window,” Tanksley said.

Norris RA Eric Johnson (junior) was notified of the situation by the student and contacted Campus Safety.

“[Campus Safety] came right away and asked for the facts: when it happened, where it happened,” Johnson said.

The peeping individual was gone upon the student’s initial investigation. Johnson does not believe the individual was a student living in Norris.

Campus Safety responded to similar peeping incidents during the 2018-2019 academic year, with incidents occurring in Haines Hall and Newcomb Hall.

Van Activity, Sept. 15

Tanksley also provided an overview of the van incident, in which a female student reported being in her car as a van stopped by her door. The student recognized this van from earlier in the day — the driver had been following her off campus, then continued to follow her when she returned to campus.

“The individual stopped for a quick second as if to engage her in conversation,” Tanksley said. “The student was having nothing of it and quickly left and called Campus Safety.”

A description of the van and its license plate number was reported to Campus Safety, who then turned the information over to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

“[The LAPD] took it quite seriously and told us they would turn our report over to their night detectives, who were going to follow up. And they did. They eventually identified the individual, met with him, and warned him that he was not to be on our property again,” Tanksley said. “There are not a lot of incidents that occur on campus and need police response.”

Norris Theft Incidents

Norris resident Daniel de Leon (sophomore) expressed his general safety concerns about Norris Hall, particularly regarding incidents from the first week of the semester.

“There were a lot of people walking in because the doors were open because we were moving boxes in,” de Leon said. “It happened once in our quad specifically where this guy walked in … but we didn’t know who he was.”

De Leon also said two laptops were stolen from the floor above him in Norris because students prop open the doors to their rooms.

“We stopped propping open the doors and stopped leaving our stuff in the common room,” de Leon said.

Rick Tanksley said Occidental students stole the two laptops.

Eileen Norris Residence Halls at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Sunday, Sept. 19, 2019. Alden Hinden-Stevenson/The Occidental.

Thomas Polansky, associate vice president of facilities, said he collaborated with Campus Safety to ensure the safety of the first floor Norris residents.

“On the morning of Friday the 13th, Rick and I went out and we looked at the E. Norris Blue windows,” Polanski said. “It’s a hopper style window, which cranks open at the bottom and is really only meant for ventilation purposes. I directed my staff to adjust all the first-floor windows in Norris Hall so they only open about half an inch.”

Polansky said the window project should be completed within the next two weeks.

Tanksley emphasized the importance of being proactive in these situations.

“We shouldn’t stop there and check every first-floor bathroom that has such cranking windows and examine those and see if we can enhance those. Because what happens in one place could theoretically happen in another place,” Tanksley said.

LiveSafe App

Tranquada praised the LiveSafe app introduced to the Occidental community Sept. 9.

“It’s got a nice GPS feature so you can let your friends know ‘Hey I’m leaving Delta and I’m walking back to campus,’ so they can see where you are and you can check in on them and make sure they get home,” Tranquada said. “So if something happens, then you have a quick way for other people to know that something is happening.”

Tranquada said the LiveSafe app allows students to call campus safety and send in anonymous tips. Students can send audio recordings, video clips, photographs and written tips to Campus Safety about suspicious behavior.

“Yes, we are an open campus, and we value that. We want our neighbors to come through campus and walk their dogs, bring their kids, and enjoy the beauty of this campus,” Tanksley said. “What makes this a safe campus is everybody being involved in the Campus Safety initiative.”