NEWARK — The man hides in the bushes, waiting for someone to approach.Then, he jumps into the open, wearing nothing but a birthday suit and a blank look.
He walks alongside or in front of unsuspecting pedestrians. He says nothing. But if his victims fail to notice the naked man or aren’t looking in his direction, he has another way to get their attention.
He starts smacking himself on the backside. Once the slapping noise and his nude body get people to look, he disappears.
“They see him, and they scream, and he runs back into the woods,” said Patrick A. Ogden, chief of the University of Delaware police.
UD campus police say a man has repeated this basic pattern of indecent exposure no fewer than seven times in the past 15 months.
Newark Police also suspect the same man could be to blame for multiple other streaking incidents off campus in the South College Avenue area.
UD police first received a report of the man in late May 2011. He jumped in front of a group of people walking to a high school graduation at the Bob Carpenter Center, Ogden said. Less than a week later, he appeared again, exposing himself to another group going to a graduation ceremony.
Two more incidents occurred later that summer and then another in October 2011.
“So then it’s getting to be October – I don’t know if it’s because it’s getting cold or what – but he falls off the map,” Ogden said.
He re-emerged in another streaking incident reported to UD police in March. The seventh and most recent reported sighting came July 5, Ogden said.
The reported sightings have centered around UD’s south campus in the vicinity around Townsend and Worrilow halls. In response, campus police have added more patrols and security cameras to the area, Ogden said.
While reviewing surveillance footage recently, a UD officer noticed a fleeting image of a man who appeared to be removing his pants while standing in the bushes around midnight on July 27. The image matched the descriptions victims have given of the flasher.
Police aren’t exactly sure how the man manages to dress himself and flee the scene, but with the University Creamery and the UD athletic facilities nearby, the area has ample parking. Police have no other physical evidence beyond the grainy, Bigfoot-like photo of the man.“Even though it’s a dark grainy picture, if you know the guy, maybe someone says, ‘Hey, I recognize him,’ ” Ogden said.
While police should take the incidents seriously, it is rare for a “serial flasher” to escalate to more aggressive or violent behavior, sex crime experts said.
“Many are not particularly dangerous, but some of them are,” said Louis B. Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The fact that he has no clothes on at all tells me this is a very strong drive. His fantasy is very articulated. This is what arouses him, so that could make him a little more dangerous.”
Chrysanthi Leon, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at UD, said this man’s urge to become a flasher probably originates in an experience in his youth that involved him getting caught performing a sexual act.
“People are primed in youth by sexual experiences to find certain situations arousing,” said Leon, author of the book “Sex Fiends, Perverts and Pedophiles: Understanding Sex Crime Policy in America.”
“Most of us don’t act on illegal urges, but flashers seem unable to find satisfaction without acting on it.”
Police believe the man could have engaged in the lewd behavior several more times than the seven reported incidents. Ogden said many witnesses did not immediately report the incidents and were hesitant to involve police over something that seemed harmless. However, Ogden said he would encourage anyone who sees the streaker or any suspicious behavior to call 911 right away.
“We’re seeking the public’s help in finding this guy,” he said.
The serial streaker will expose himself to groups of people, a man and woman walking together or one or two women heading in his direction, Ogden said. Police think they have identified one pattern though: The groups he has confronted have always included at least one college-aged woman, Ogden said.
Schlesinger said it’s not uncommon for exhibitionists to have a preferred type of victim, which could be women, men or even children.
“Keep in mind these people are sexually perverse,” Schlesinger said. “They are not normal people.”
Ok. Fess up. Which one of you is it?