Prowler sparks campus security debate

Story by Eric Larson

It’s an old cinematic trick: the actor or actress unsuspectingly stands in front of a mirror, looks away, then looks back into the reflection and sees someone (or, depending on the film, something) standing eerily behind them.

For sophomore Karen Dahl, that cliché scare tactic became a reality on April 19 when she noticed a man standing in the showers of the sixth floor girl’s bathroom of Towers South.
“I was just washing my hands at the sink when I saw his reflection behind me,” she said. “He was in the back corner peering behind the curtains … I walked toward the door immediately, and as I did, I made eye contact with him. His pants were halfway down and he was just standing there.”

Dahl said she noticed the man standing by the elevator when she entered the bathroom, but did not hear him come in behind her. When she left the bathroom, she immediately told her RA, who confronted the man.

“And then he just ran off,” she said.

Once the police arrived and inspected the building, an announcement giving the description of the intruder was made over the PA system. Eventually, the man — 27-year-old Julian Martin — was located and arrested for invasion of privacy and disorderly conduct.

“I’m very upset and frustrated that we’d have something like this happen to one of our students,” said Charles Major, Housing Director for the university. “Our primary focus is for students to feel safe; it really is the single most important thing.”

Major said that the incident, which occurred around 7 p.m., spawned discussion amongst the Housing and Residence office about the university’s security on campus.

Currently, Major said, dormitory doors are locked from either 10 p.m. or midnight (depending on the building) to 7 a.m. Once the doors are locked, a worker is stationed at the front door to check residents into the building.

However, he said, the Housing and Residence office plans to implement card (or Blugold) scanners to the main entrances of the dorms next fall — something the office has been debating for some time, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether or not this incident could have been prevented,” he said. “I’m confident, though, that whatever new system we put into place, though, will certainly make it more difficult for someone like that to enter.”

Dahl agrees. Twenty-four hour security is what the campus needs, she said.

“I think (this) could have been prevented,” she said. “Security around the dorms has always seemed really lax to me in comparison to other universities. Twenty-four hour security would definitely be preferable. I don’t think swiping a card is much of a sacrifice for safety.”

According to documents provided by Major, the majority of UW schools have implemented at least some form of 24/7 security.

UW-Madison and UW-Green Bay, for example, require card access for entry into any campus building. UW-La Crosse locks their campus doors from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. every day, accessible only by card access.

“We’re going to do sort of a test run once the new security is set up in the fall,” Major said. “We’ll probably keep the physical worker at the front door there for a while. After a brief trial run and some discussion with administration, then we’ll be able to decide how we’ll officially use it.”

Despite the incident, Major hopes students still feel safe in the dorms.

“We distribute a Residence Satisfaction survey every year, and each year an overwhelming majority of students respond that they feel their hall is a safe place to live,” he said. “Last year alone, 97.98% of students said they felt safe in the dorms.”

Dahl said that while she was initially a bit shaken by the intrusion, she feels safe again knowing that Martin was captured.

“I do feel better about things now,” she said, “but I still hope the upgrade in security ends up working out.”