Police investigate another case of indecent exposure outside Bellingham home
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- It’s happened again.
Bellingham police have received another report of indecent exposure outside a home. The latest case was reported Monday night a few blocks from the campus of Western Washington University.
Investigators are trying to figure out who's responsible and if the case could be connected to a series of other cases reported in recent months. About 15 cases of indecent exposure or voyeurism have been reported since summer, police said.
Grayson Warren told KOMO News his friend saw a man expose himself outside his home at around 11:30 P.M. Monday.
"I was sitting on my couch and my friend looked over at me and said ‘Hey, just FYI… there’s a man standing in your window looking at me and he has his penis out.'" Warren said. "And immediately I thought of the man that has been around at all of these alerts that Western Washington University sends out."
Warren said he knew something was wrong when his friend seemed oddly calm about what she was seeing.
Warren went over to the window and started screaming to try to get the guy to leave, he said. By the time Warren and his friends got outside, the man was gone. He was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, Warren said.
"I’m just kinda hoping that this guy can be caught so that he can stop making residents and especially young female residents feel unsafe in their own neighborhood," Warren said. "So, I just want the problem to be over."
Bellingham police are trying to figure out how many people are behind about 15 cases of indecent exposure and voyeurism that have been reported between the WWU campus and the city’s downtown core in recent months and if any of the crimes are connected.
Investigators released a new sketch of a man caught masturbating north of campus late last week. The man's eyes appeared to be sunken in, police said.
"Some of the things are the same. The fact that he was standing across the street from the house masturbating is a little bit different than what generally we’ve had with the other 15," said Sgt. Claudia Murphy, Bellingham Police Department. "The fact that he was across the street… does stray from the method of operation from the cluster of 15 that we’ve had because generally it was closer to the window."
The man appears to have a different description from a suspect captured on surveillance cameras Saturday night when he exposed himself to an employee at a convenience store.
"For us, it’s every day we come to work and there’s another case. And it’s just like ‘Oh my gosh.’ Cause all we want to do is… we really just want to keep our citizens safe and this is not. This is frightening people, this has got people on edge. This has got people in neighborhoods very much on edge," Murphy said.
The department has stepped up patrols in the area, but investigators need more tips to help solve the cases, Murphy said.
She urges victims to call 9-1-1 immediately when the crimes happen. Stay on the phone with dispatchers and tell them where the person is going and what they’re doing, Murphy said. That gives officers the best chance of catching the suspect(s) before they slip away, she added.
"Don’t call friends first please. Don’t holler out. I know it’s an instinct to do, to yell out and warn them. Or we’ve had people walk up to them and go ‘I’m going to call police if you don’t leave.’ And it’s like… that’s all well and good except for the fact that it puts you in danger and we don’t want that," Murphy said.
"Our officers at night are tuned into this. So, as soon as they hear voyeurism or prowler or suspicious person call, we are in mass heading that direction. And so, that’s the best way for us to catch them," she added.
Police don’t yet know if the recent cluster of cases is connected to a cluster from earlier this year and another one back in 2015, Murphy said.
If you're out walking at night, keep your eyes up and your head on a swivel, Murphy said. Pay attention to houses around you and call something in if it appears to be suspicious, she added. It's also a good idea to keep the lights on your home on and your drapes and windows closed.