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May 23, 2024

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Public Safety investigates residence hall incidents occuring in women’s restrooms

March 1, 2007

For the past month, Public Safety and River Falls Police Department have been investigating multiple incidents involving two identified-male suspects entering and leaving the women’s bathrooms in Crabtree, May and Grimm residence halls.

“From what we understand, they may have been let in by a student on at least one occasion,” said Interim Public Safety Director Dick Trende. “My suggestion is if you have any questions about anyone trying to enter, you need to inform them to use the main entrance and talk with the staff about entering the building.”

The incidents began Feb. 5 when a resident contacted a Public Safety officer about a male found in the fourth floor women’s bathroom in May Hall. A total of eight or more separate calls have been made to Public Safety related to the incidents by residents, residence assistants, a custodian and hall managers, according to the Feb. 20 Public Safety report.

The male is described as white, about 25-years-old or older, approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a goatee and dark, buzz-cut hair, wearing a brown flannel jacket with jeans and work boots.

According to a Feb. 5 report, the aforementioned male was seen and described in May Hall during two different occasions in the women’s bathroom around 6:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

“If anyone sees this male on campus, notify Public Safety as soon as possible,” Trende said. “Even though the situation has been addressed, it is advisable to get a hold of them right away.”

The faster a resident contacts Public Safety, the easier it will be to assess and possibly catch any suspects, Trende said.

“It difficult to assess the situation, if it is one to two hours later,” he said.

Public Safety contacted River Falls Police Department to help with the investigation outside of UW-River Falls property, Trende said. The police department has made contact with the younger male and advised him to stay off any property of the University.

The report also stated a different male leaving the shower area of the women’s bathroom in Grimm Hall at 8 p.m. The male is described as a 40- to 50-year-old with balding and graying hair with a short and heavy set body, wearing a black leather jacket and Carhardt baseball cap.

The older male had been contacted by Public Safety in the University Center, where he was eating a meal, Trende said.

At this time, Trende said he is certain the two males have no connections, and each of the incidents are being dealt with separately.

The University and staff at the University Center want the public to utilize the new building, but it was a case of not having a true reason for staying in the building besides the meal, he said.

“He was approached and asked to leave by Public Safety officers and the University Center staff,” Trende said. “There was an issue with him definitely; he was more of a transient and nothing criminal.”

The incidents with the younger male, Trende said, were not an accident.

“It’s highly unlikely it was an accident,” he said.

If the male is seen on campus, he can be charged with the state statute for trespassing, which the University enforces state laws, Trende said. Other charges could include voyeurism, which is in the case of a peeping Tom.

“Once he’s been advised as not coming back to any University property, he can be charged with trespassing,” Trende said.

A greater awareness has allowed administration, residents and staff to assess any future security issues, said Terry Willson, director of Residence Life/Staff Development.

“The bottom line of safety is coming down to the level of the residents,” he said. “A greater awareness will help us assess what we will need to do in the future to increase the security in the halls.”

At this time, education and awareness efforts are being implemented in most of the residence halls, especially the buildings where the incidents occurred, like flyers are posted on the bathroom doors, designating if it is strictly for women and noting anyone not abiding the rules are subject to a charge of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

Individual floors and wings of residence halls had meetings with RAs, and area coordinators met with staff during the weekly meetings to discuss any improvements or changes for the future, Willson said.

“We’re looking at what we can do to increase the security,” he said. “We’re fortunate on this campus to not have something extremely serious happen.”

Willson said his staff is currently looking at discussing the residence hall card access in place outside all the entrances. Some future recommendations are more restricted access, like only residence being able to open the doors or fewer hours for non-residents, and the strictest change could be only having one point of access. If any of the changes will occur, it will be by next fall.

“If anyone sees something suspicious, they must tell someone right away,” Willson said. “First, they need to tell an RA, Public Safety or River Falls police; second, residents need to lock their doors at night or when they are not in their room, and third, do not let strangers in.”

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