You Done Left Fingerprints and all.
June 15, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I had a peeper at my window. I suspect someone I barely know. How to proceed?

A couple of months ago, I was awoken by my puppy barking. I had just fallen asleep, so I was groggy. I thought initially that it was raccoons on my porch (I have a front porch that faces the street and my bedroom window faces out on this porch) but I saw movement and got up to go and see. Again, I was groggy and disoriented at the time.

A few words about my living situation. I share a house with two younger women, in their early twenties (I'm a woman in her forties and one of the young women is my daughter). They have numerous friends in the punk rock community here. They have had some of these people by here, not a problem for me, ever. I like most of their friends and we live in a funky type community, we are on the major bike path, near a skatepark, and there's a lot of bike, board, and pedestrian traffic. I've always felt safe, though, and know most of my neighbours. We are all pretty visible around the area.

Anyway, so when I saw someone out there, my first thought was that it was one of their friends dropping by at an inappropriate time. I got up and went to the window. Our house had been really hot for days, so I had the top transom on the window open but my curtains closed. There was a man outside right up by my window, and my first thought was that he had a black toque on, and my boyfriend wears one, so maybe it was him, no, not him, OMG that's a balaclava WTF?! The guy told me he just wanted to watch me while he jerked off. Yuck. I then looked down and saw that's what he was doing, pulled the curtains closed and left the room. I woke up the girls, we went back, he was gone. I called the police who arrived with dogs and everything but did not catch him.

This creep had had his hand right inside my window and left a big thumb/palm print. Forensics came and took the print the next day. I submitted my report to the police but I've not heard anything since.

At first, I did not take it too seriously. I was just starting my final exams, no one was hurt, it was just dumb. Then about two or three days later, the shock of it really sank in. I began going over every detail I could remember and looking at every male passer-by with suspicion.

One detail that stuck in my mind (the entire thing went down in seconds, and the details are fuzzy at best)was an impression that this was a punk kid, perhaps some patches on the bottom of his jacket, perhaps some's not clear to me even now, but it was an impression. A couple of weeks later, my boyfriend and I were walking my dog by the skatepark and one of the girls' friends was there and engaged us in conversation. I saw his jacket, and I flashed on that night. I walked away and left my bf talking to him.

I told my room mate about it and she said she would keep an ear out. This week, I went for coffee with my daughter's ex-boyfriend, let's call him Steve, who is currently room mates with the guy, let's call him Bob, who I had suspicions about. I had not intended to talk to Steve about this, but it came up in conversation. Steve told me he saw Bob the night of the incident, and that Bob seemed sketchy and weird. He strongly suspects Bob was the 'window masturbator'.

I really don't have any evidence, or any cohesive description of the guy. I know he was over 6 feet, because his eye was level with the top transom of the window. I didn't see his face at all. I would feel terrible to place someone under investigation needlessly and these are punk kids for whom such an investigation would be really problematic. I don't want to cause a problem for anyone but I also know that someone who is doing this kind of thing needs help and may be a danger to others. I'm torn, because I have only vague impressions, no real evidence and I could well be very badly mistaken in even suspecting Bob (who has been at my home, before the incident and once after, when I was not there). I've asked the girls not to have him over here again and told them of my feelings about it. One thinks I'm crazy and Bob would never do such a thing, the other is less adamant. So, should I contact the police about my suspicions , or not?
posted by alltomorrowsparties to Law & Government (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not first follow up on the police report and see if they have any news/information/etc for you re: the fingerprints?
posted by elizardbits at 11:28 AM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: I did follow up with the police shortly after and was told they would contact me if they had any developments. They did take my complaint really seriously, because of the use of a mask during the crime.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:31 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If Steve thinks Bob might be the guy, couldn't he get you something with Bob's fingerprints on it which you could show to the police? If the prints match, you can tell them about Bob. But if that ain't it, you must acquit.
posted by ubiquity at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Since there are fingerprints, it seems like it would be really easy to rule out Bob if he wasn't the guy. If you're worried about cops investigating Bob then maybe Steve can give Bob the heads up not to get involved in anything illegal for the next few weeks or something, hopefully that won't be such a hardship for Bob.

You can also get a cheap webcam and just point it at that window to see if anything else happens.
posted by cairdeas at 11:51 AM on June 15, 2012

Continuing to avoid this guy is the right course of action. If you don't know for 100% sure that he's the one though, don't mention it to the police.

Hopefully Steve will keep an eye on his roommate and call him in if there's something weird going on.

I'd hesitate telling the police that you think it's Bob, only because it's so hard to un-ring the "I've been involved with the cops" bell.

If he's been out of the the system to the point that they can't match his finger prints on your window, then it's not really fair to put him in there.

The other option is to take a few folks and point-blank ask him if he'd be willing to be finger-printed to exclude him. If he's on the level, he won't have a problem. Although, if he's behind other unsolved crimes, he might.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You have now told enough people your suspicions (who have probably each told someone else...) that I think you need to let the police clear his name by checking his fingerprints.
posted by saucysault at 12:42 PM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

In my mind, it's the matching jacket that should be enough for the police to at least check him out. If you go to the police with this bit of info, they can contact him to talk to him about an open investigation without mentioning that they're investigating some creep who was masturbating on your porch.

Go with your gut, safety first.
posted by mibo at 12:51 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Did the police collect semen evidence? There's the DNA proof.
posted by brujita at 12:57 PM on June 15, 2012

Call the police, of course. Tell them what you told us. Tell them that Bob's jacket rang a bell and ask them if there's anything they can do to investigate, and in particular to check the fingerprint. It's easy enough to ascertain that it's not him, if it's not. If it is, it's very important that he be identified by the police.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:59 PM on June 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Hit post too soon, sorry -- look, the guy at your window WAS someone you know, almost certainly, right? Because he knew there would be someone he wanted to masturbate to in your house, enough that he packed up his trusty balaclava and popped by. Your curtain was closed - he knew what he was looking for. So this is not far fetched. Go to the police.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:02 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I AM NOT defending him, but I'd caution that

If he's on the level, he won't have a problem.

is not necessarily true. A refusal should not be seen as an automatic admission of guilt. A perhaps legitimate distrust of law enforcement would make me wary of voluntarily giving any biometric information to the police to simply rule me out without other factors perhaps implicating me (innocent until proven guilty right?). There is a non zero chance that even if innocent that information would end up in a database for future abuse.

At the same time I think it is reasonable to let the police know this fellow may be a person of interest. They may be able to establish probable cause independently of the fingerprint in order to make fingerprinting a legitimate path.

It is subterfuge, but if it is legal and the police where willing to compare an anonymous print then alternatively (personally) I'd think about that route.
posted by edgeways at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Go to the police with your information.
posted by jbenben at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Tell the police you suspect Bob and tell them why, including that others do. Maybe you're wrong, but they should be interviewing him to determine that.
posted by kavasa at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

In light of this incident, how do you feel about making the house a bit 'safer'? Maybe put some privacy film on your bedroom window, install a cam or security mirror. Make sure no one can enter the house through the window etc.

The guy had a mask, that is not something many people just happen to carry around - one could wonder if it was planned, if he knew you etc.. He put his hand inside your room, I think that sounds scary and serious.

You say Steve "saw Bob the night of the incident, and that Bob seemed sketchy and weird. He strongly suspects Bob was the 'window masturbator'.
Did he see him in the neighborhood of your house? Why does he 'strongly suspect' it? Would Steve consider talking to the police? He might have more/other information than you do.

I think the police is interested in new information ('I saw his jacket, and I flashed on that night') and IMHO it would make more sense to talk to them vs. speculate with friends (not to escalate the situation by rumors/safety reasons).
Stay safe!
posted by travelwithcats at 2:04 PM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

the guy at your window WAS someone you know, almost certainly, right? Because he knew there would be someone he wanted to masturbate to in your house

I wouldn't jump to this conclusion automatically, as attractive a theory as it may be. Voyeurs are known to be obsessive and will spend many nights lurking at the chance for some skin.

All that said, the jacket, combined with the roommate's suspicions, is more than enough for you to mention this to the police. They can question him without tipping him off that you've fingered him (assuming he's innocent) -- they just need to "ask some questions" which will be the typical "where were you on X night", "do you have an alibi", "do you own a mask". It's not in the interests of the cops to expose you (no pun intended) unnecessarily. Obviously if it is a situation like fingersandtoes suggests where you and only you are the target, he'll know right away, but you can't avoid that.

But yeah, given the level of contact he created with you following your discovery of him, he sounds a bit more dangerous than the "average" peeping tom.
posted by dhartung at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you suspect someone committed a sexual crime against you, report them to then police.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. I've taken some steps to make my home a little more secure, but I refuse to let this unpleasant episode change my life in any appreciable way. I have never lived my life in fear of other people and I don't want to. I've contacted the officer in charge of the incident again to let him know that I may have some more information and we'll see how that goes. I really don't want to cause trouble for someone based only upon a vague feeling, but hopefully the prints will either catch him if he was the perpetrator or exonerate him if he was not.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 12:14 AM on June 19, 2012

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