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Police warn of SOU prowler

Expressing a "high level of concern," Ashland police are looking for a man reported several times to be prowling the student housing of Southern Oregon University and surrounding neighborhood and exposing himself to women.

Police have received 10 reports seeming to fit the same suspect, described as slim, in his 20s or 30s, of medium height (5 feet 4 inches to just under 6 feet tall) and wearing dark clothes and a black ski mask, said Deputy Police Chief Rich Walsh.

The suspect has knocked on doors, approached some women and asked for sexual favors, exposed himself on at least two occasions and has been seen "skulking around," but ran off when confronted by one female resident, Walsh said.

"Our concern with this type of incident is that we fear it could escalate and we don't know where it might lead," Walsh said. "We don't know if or how quickly it could escalate, depending on if what he's doing at this point is satisfying to him, so we have a high level of concern about catching him soon."

William Smith, SOU Vice President for Residential Education and Services, said he has put out fliers Tuesday and again Wednesday warning student housing residents about the situation and urging them to call police if they see anyone suspicious.

Smith is planning a community meeting in the next few days to share information and strategies, he said.

"This kind of thing is never routine. We try to respond as quickly and judiciously as possible to create an environment that's safe and secure for residents," Smith noted.

Police are focusing surveillance between 7 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. around Walker and Mountain avenues, East Main Street and Siskiyou Boulevard, where he was reported.

Residents should lock doors, draw curtains and look for stacks of objects below windows, where the prowler may have stood, said Walsh.

There have been no weapons or violent acts reported but "residents should have a high level of concern and be very aware," said Walsh, adding, "We definitely want to get this guy."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.