Peeping Tom disturbs SE Como

The peeper has been seen “dozens of times” by tenants this past year.

Peeping Tom disturbs SE Como

Ian Taylor

A peeping Tom has been trolling the Southeast Como area for more than a year, but the Southeast Como Improvement Association is just now addressing the problem.

SECIA recently added an alert to its website warning residents about the crimes. The organizationâÄôs director said they have been occurring for a long time.

 âÄúItâÄôs been happening off-and-on for a year,âÄù said James De Sota, neighborhood director of SECIA.

De Sota said he received a call regarding an incident about three weeks ago and that similar cases have occurred before then.

There were three reports during the summer of 2010 and another report in June 2011, according to Minneapolis Police Department records. All the incidents occurred in the Southeast Como area.

Nick Juarez, a crime prevention specialist for Minneapolis police, said there are no leads and that no investigation has begun due to a lack of information. Because all of the incidents occurred in the Southeast Como area, Juarez said he believes the crimes are connected.

Juarez said the department is working with these groups to spread information, encourage residents to increase lighting around houses and to report suspicious activity to the police.

JuliAnne Owens is the landlord of a duplex on 25th Avenue Southeast, where she said the peeping Tom has been harassing her tenants. She has spent close to $2,000 on new exterior lights, including one that stays on all night; new curtains for her residents that she made herself and a $900 motion sensing infrared camera mounted on a neighborâÄôs garage.

 âÄúMy rental property is my investment,âÄù she said. âÄúI canâÄôt have some peeping Tom bothering my residents.âÄù

Owens said there have been many more incidents than the four that have been reported to Minneapolis police. Since this summer, the tenants have seen the peeper âÄúdozens of times.âÄù

She said itâÄôs been a struggle to report the problem because tenants misunderstand the process of bringing the incidents to police.

âÄúThey think they are reporting the crime when they call the police but if the 911 officer asks if everything is OK, if the threat is gone, the police wonâÄôt come,âÄù she said.

Now, she is telling residents if they do not officially report the crime, they will be in violation of their lease.

âÄúItâÄôs bad I have to be that way,âÄù she said. âÄúI wish this guy would leave us alone.âÄù

University graduate Keeley Vollmer was a victim of a peeping Tom in August 2010 while living in Southeast Como.

Vollmer said she was undressing in her bedroom and saw someone through the window.

âÄúI saw two brown eyes and a camera lens,âÄù she said.

Vollmer screamed and immediately checked to see if the door was locked, then she locked herself in the bathroom and called the police, who arrived within 10 minutes. She was so shaken up by the incident that she moved out of the building within a week, even though she was planning on leaving by the end of that month.

âÄúI didnâÄôt feel safe. It was the second time happening on my block, and who knows how many times he has already done this,âÄù Vollmer said. She now lives in St. Paul.

Vollmer said her greatest disappointment about the incident was how little the neighborhood groups or police seemed to do to address the situation. She said although a similar event happened close to where she lived only a few weeks earlier, none of the cops that arrived at the scene were aware of the crime.

Vollmer said it was ridiculous that SECIA has only recently put up an alert about the peeping Tom.

In response to why the alert was only recently added, De Sota said organizations can only act on an incident when somebody reports it to them.

 âÄúItâÄôs all about the exchange of information âÄî if we donâÄôt know about it, we canâÄôt do anything about it,âÄù De Sota said.

Now, SECIA is working to solve the problem.

There have been talks in the SECIA Safety Committee about getting cameras or temporary lighting for the neighborhood, and what opportunities for funding there would be, incoming safety committee chairman Adam Arling said.

âÄúWe want to be more active,âÄù he said.

Arling, who is also a member of the Student Neighborhood Liaisons, said the liaisons are working to help the community fight the problem as well. Members have been going door-to-door to inform residents about the issue and encourage residents to shut their blinds and lock their doors.

Juarez said he encourages residents to be aware of suspicious people in the neighborhood, keep ground-floor windows locked and strategically trim bushes so there are less places for peeping Toms to hide.