OB Town Council Hears Outrage From Residents Over Recent Sexual Assaults and Peeping Tom Incidents

by on September 28, 2012 · 10 comments

in Civil Rights, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach, Popular, Women's Rights

Officer David Surwilo – third from left – addresses crowd at OB Town Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2012. Photo by Chris Dotson.

Community Members Jam OBTC Meeting and Voice Impatience at Lack of Progress by Police

Wednesday night at 7PM, the OB Town Council held their monthly public meeting, as a crowd of more than 100 Ocean Beach residents filled Masonic hall to express anger over a growing perception serious and violent sexual crimes are increasing in OB.

While the actual number of reported incidents remains low, a strong showing by residents, and several television camera crews from local media stations, were met with serious concern from San Diego police, as officers and residents reported on both known and unreported incidents.

Police Community Relations Officer David Surwilo addressed the meeting by introducing Lt. Natalie Stone as our newest Service Area Lieutenant, saying she has been assigned to SDPD’s Western Division. Lt. Stone is a new point of contact for OBceans who are interested in better understanding and resolving crimes in Ocean Beach.  OBceans can contact Lt. Natalie Stone directly at her office, dialing 619-692-4804, or they may contact Surwilo or Stone through the main number at 619-692-4800.

With a few weeks in her new role, Lt. Stone confirmed only three reports have been registered and remain active investigations, specifically the shocking report by a “groping” victim on August 15th along the bike path near Robb Field, and the assault against a woman on August 25th at approximately 2:10 am on Muir Avenue and Cable Street.

A third investigation continues to search for clues and the culprit behind the most recent report of a peeping tom, and Lt. Stone indicated this is their hottest investigation taking place in the area. This incident, reported on September 7, occurred on Saratoga Avenue in the vicinity of Sacred Heart Academy, a K – 8 School for children.

Lt. Stone asked OBceans to join the investigative effort to help identify the peeper, reminding attendees the incidents may or may not have been carried out by a single culprit. Without additional information or formal reports, it is difficult to ascertain the source of risk to community without evidence.

A few loud cries from the audience went out against transient populations. Lt. Stone countered, describing another popular incident which misled the public into believing a homeless person had been committing thefts in another area, and where strong public suspicion proved untrue and misleading. She focused her comments by revealing how criminal patterns may be used to understand the true nature of crime which too often remains overlooked by casual or emotional observers.

As an example, Lt. Stone announced her own research into OB crime shows a rise in peeping cases which may have begun last May and June, then stopped, prior to the events reported recently.  Her comments were directed at OBceans and others who may recognize and report potential suspects, suggesting the assailant might be someone who may have gone away on vacation or was out of town during the intervening periods.

Clearly, the SDPD is asking our assistance to obtain information to help identify suspected criminals and stalkers, like the Saratoga peeper.

Drawing of suspected peeping tom.

The fact that seven peeping tom cases have been recently reported to police is alarming, outweighed by the fact only one incident produced a witness and a good description, as reported for the Sept 7 incident. Based on evidence and individual testimonies, police believe more than one perpetrator may be responsible for these seven reports.  One commonality, police went on to confirm the events took place at night, typically between 9pm and 4am.

Crime on the rise?

Both Lt. Stone and Officer Surwilo answered questions and provided details regarding the three active investigations. During public questioning, several other attacks were discussed which were categorized as either old or unrelated incidents. Except for the three investigations, the other claims have gone unreported or lack enough information to open a formal investigation.

For example, bar crimes are rumored to be increasing, and one woman OBcean present expressed serious and deep concerns regarding her two woman friends who believe they were recently drugged at an OB bar.  According to her statements during the OBTC meeting, two woman friends claimed they had been visiting a nearby bar, and awoke the next morning in familiar surroundings but unaware of what had happened or even if anything did happen during the night. Both women woke in a state of confusion and serious alarm over their personal well being, unable to recount events from the night before.

The implication was both women had been drugged and raped while they remained unconscious. It was unclear if police had registered any official complaints concerning these claims, however both women reportedly went to hospital and submitted themselves to rape kit testing.  No additional details were provided regarding the two women, results of any testing is unknown, nor was the actual bar location disclosed where these events are reported to have taken place.

While such a scenario is horrible to imagine, the strength of the testimony, and the crowd’s attendance during the opening portions of the OBTC meeting suggests OB is very alert to unreported crimes and other criminal activities, yet the village continues to keep quiet about its darkest secrets.

Of many complaints being voiced during OBTC, the peeping tom incident, the assault on Muir, and the drugging of two women at a local bar seemed to be of primary concern, not to diminish other public statements or ongoing investigations.

Investigations into the peeping tom

Obviously, not all crimes are reported to police, a fact which we all seem to know and accept but which only undermines public and police efforts to identify and catch criminals, as the recent peeping tom incident may have demonstrated. As we reported, on Monday, 9/17, around 10:30 am one startled parent discovered physical evidence of a peeping tom directly underneath their daughter’s bedroom window.

One strong possibility to consider from the night before stems from the fact a neighbor had witnessed a man peeping into their own window around 9:30 pm, but the victim chose not to warn neighbors, and they failed to report the incident in a timely manner. Given the schedule of events as they unfolded, coupled with the street-level investigation and door-to-door tactics police are now using to locate the perpetrator, it seems a real possibility police believe the peeper could have been caught in the act, if the initial incident had been reported the night before. Lt. Stone confirmed this assertion during a recent follow-up to the OBTC meeting.

DNA evidence collected for peeping tom incident

In the mean time, Police collected DNA evidence from the scene on Monday 9/17, including an unspecified type and amount of material which they believe will further their investigation. Though investigators are applying internal pressure to expedite DNA lab testing, their final analysis could take weeks before test results are available.

Lt. Stone cautioned residents against over-emphasizing this part of the investigation, and she reminded all in attendance how actual science behind crime fighting is not accurately portrayed on television shows where crime scene investigation makes such popular drama.

As presented during the OBTC meeting by each of the officers, next to crime prevention as a tool for thwarting criminal activity, more effective crime fighting takes place only when concerned citizens and on-scene witnesses provide valuable information or evidence upon notifying police and filing a report, as when people directly observe crime or identify suspicious activity.

According to Officer Surwilo, police are actively investigating OB neighborhoods, as officers are searching for the peeper on foot and on bicycle. Uniformed and plain clothes officers are driving the streets and walking the alleyways, looking for suspicious activities in the dark corners and hidden alcoves, between homes and building complexes, as they remain most hopeful of catching the peeping tom in the act.

Calls for assistance

Few facts are available to aid these criminal investigations, and catching the peeper in the act is one clear way to correctly identify the culprit and gain a conviction. In this case, police are looking into the possibility the victims may have known the peeping tom.  Officer Surwilo suggested how a peeper could evade public notice or police capture simply by returning to his own home, nearby.

Strong show of community support for grass roots

Additional police statements suggesting OBceans should close their windows at night for safety were met with some disdain, and many residents are justified in their belief that law abiding citizens shouldn’t be the ones forced to live in fear, rather the criminals should be made more fearful of getting caught.

Such statements are obvious but more than a few OBceans attending the OBTC meeting felt more should be done. As several woman stood and voiced their anger and frustration, many agreed that Ocean Beach will not lay down when our freedom is threatened! The most applause during the meeting showed support for the brother of the August 25th victim, when he explained how mainstream news agencies and police berated him for posting flyers offering a $5000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his sisters’ attacker.

Not convinced the investigation was advancing towards an arrest or conviction, the brother of the assault victim publicly restated his intent and continued efforts to apprehend the culprit. To the applause, the brother said he remains committed to identifying the unknown assailant who violently attacked his sister as she walked home from a late night party.

Officer Surwilo and Lt. Stone restated the importance of communication between concerned citizens and SDPD, and Lt. Stone stated she is available to respond to public concerns.

Crime Watch Web Page

As another concerned female addressed the gathering, and with obvious pain over struggling to resolve a crime committed against her, several voices echoed the need for an Ocean Beach Crime Watch web page to aid citizens. A general call went out for improving communications regarding recent police reports, as well as unreported incidents among citizens, and whenever crime occurs within our own borders.

Fighting back tears, the young woman went on the offensive and demanded police keep the community better informed, stating how the peeping incident was not properly communicated to nearby businesses and residents. She described the lack of communication, and how other nearby organizations were not alerted, even though these locations are where children attend school or are known to be gathering, nearby.

As though prepared for this request, Officer Surwilo immediately offered to help an organized community effort to expand public communications if OBceans were to act upon their own demand for creating a new web page or similar online Crime Watch billboard.  Surwilo demonstrated his willingness to directly aid our efforts to report and solve crimes, especially to assist those who want to create a Crime Watch web presence for improving public communications and promoting fact-finding efforts.

It was unclear if anyone actually accepted Surwilo’s offer, as most of the crowd dispersed soon after he stated his intentions and his presentation was concluded.

Here is the San Diego Reader’s version of the meeting by Mercy Baron.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jon September 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

As a concerned community member who was unable to attend, I want to say thank you for the detailed report of the meeting. Great job!

I also heard from a few sources that there was going to be someone complaining about public art in the new restroom at Brighton. Did that take place at this meeting? I was so puzzled as to why someone would A: take the time to read a bunch of quotes on a public bathroom wall, and B: feel it necessary to hold a meeting with the local town council to complain about it. I would be curious to know more. Seems like such a silly story.

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avatar OB Mercy September 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Hey Jon, I wrote about the ceiling story in The Reader here http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/sep/27/stringers-artists-bathroom-ceiling-project/
Which was presented, rather anti climatically. after the fired up crime portion of the meeting. It’s credited to Anonymous because I conducted the impromptu survey mentioned in the article.

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avatar chris dotson September 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Jon, This was certainly the highlight of the meeting, and I can add to this other matter.

In fact, the person making the case appears to have taken considerable more time than even was presented Wednesday (and investment, too, i believe), after having been present to witness the prior Planning Board meeting where he first introduced his findings (and was somewhat mis-reported in the Reader? as he merely requested to be added to the agenda of the existing meeting, i.e., it was not a meeting called special to hear his complaint. I recall, mostly because it was something of interest and I emailed Frank about, afterwards).

Spinning a web: His story never changed from the first time he recited his speech. Almost preaching, and I saw it more than once! A circular litany. A tedious, hieroglyphics-like deconstruction of the “cave drawings” – Impressive! – Except, it’s motives may have surfaced , when time and again it always reversed itself, and with each iteration he repeated, back over the words “FRANK” and “OBRAG”, and then inter-mixed with more ranting. Even Musgrove told him to keep quiet!
Sorry, but “the dude” must be stuck in a loop playing the white album backwards!
He was fully equipped with hand-outs for every member, it looked like in triplicate!

Lots of trees killed to display an expertly deciphered, digital extrapolation of . . . . . art. Must have taken 50 hours to decode. Plus, I think he spent money having someone doing an enlargement!

Obviously, it seemed an odd affair . . . Perhaps the only one more obsessed, it seems in re-reading this, is my own recollection of the matter. Simply because I showed up at a few meetings, and only after I wanted to learn more about our fair little town OB ;)

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avatar chris dotson September 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

The police report was the highlight, that is. . .

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avatar OB Mercy September 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Great job Chris! Very detailed and informative. Wow, that was an emotional meeting, eh? We need to take our streets back!! Very sad that so many women in OB DON’T know what’s going on and continue to walk alone at night. I warn every one of them I can.

The police did make two arrests yesterday. Not sure if they were the perps they’re looking for. Was on my way up to the story on Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs Blvd, hearing the helo overhead and listening to my police scanner app on my phone, but the helo stopped circling when I was on my way there. I heard they were caught somewhere on W. Point Loma.

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avatar chris dotson September 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Nobody is listening to Jeff’s drum beating obsession, which died on the vine.
Wow. Yo go, girl! I’ll look for that scanner app!

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avatar Jon September 29, 2012 at 8:04 am

Thanks for the 411 guys. That’s pretty much the scenario I dreamed up in my head. My first thought when I heard someone was angry over the artwork in a public restroom we all fought so hard to get completed was “get a life.”

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avatar kenloc September 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Did they ever catch the guy who murdered the poor dude standing in the alley by the AZ that night? Wasnt long ago, but I have heard nothing else about it

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avatar Sunshine October 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm

great coverage of the town council meeting, Chris. I appreciate everyone who came out to attend this meeting. OBceans do care about their neighbors in this village as this show of support reflects.

Nice to hear that Officer Surwilo has safely returned from active military duty. I’m all for having an online “data pool” of crimes witnessed in OB. If witnesses could report incidents anonymously i believe we could gather some valuable information.

For the past 2 nights an extremely low flying helicopter has been circling over Del Monte/Narragansett at the cliffs. while this does afford the neighbors an opportunity to say hello to each other in our pajama’s, it’s still unsettling to hear what sounds like a helicopter landing on the roof at 2am. what was it, another boat coming ashore? anyone know?

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avatar OB Mercy October 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Hey Sunshine. There were 3 different incidents over the wknd involving the water. I wrote about them for the Reader as a neighborhood news story. Should be on their web site. If you sign up to get their alerts, you can always be in the loop with what’s going on in your hood. That chopper, and the Coast Guard helo today, we’re looking for a body unfortunately. Two men were in a boat in south Mission Beach that turned over, one rescued, one missing. They had to search a large area because of the strong currents.

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