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Alleged masturbator spotted on John Street

DPS officers do not know if the incident is related to past occurrences of public exposure on John Street

A partially naked male was allegedly seen masturbating on the lawn of a home on John Street near Brook Street by four students just before 10 p.m. Saturday, wrote Paul Shanley, deputy chief of police for the Department of Public Safety, in an email to The Herald.

Shira Atkins ’14 was part of the group walking down Brook Street when she saw a man standing on the grass in front of a friend’s house on John Street. She described the male as having “black hair down to his shoulders” and said he seemed to have something tied around his neck, possibly a scarf or another piece of clothing.

The students realized the man was masturbating and ran around the corner to call DPS, Atkins said, adding that officers arrived quickly following the call.

Both DPS and Providence Police Department officers came to the scene, Shanley wrote. The students told police the man appeared to be 20 to 25 years old.

After DPS officers arrived, Atkins went with them in a car to attempt to identify a possible subject, but the man they had identified was not the same, she said.

DPS officers searched the area but were unable to find the individual responsible, Shanley wrote.

The John Street area has seen multiple similar public masturbation incidents in recent years. Officers do not know if the suspect in this case was responsible for previous incidents.

“Both of our departments have deployed numerous patrols to that area in an attempt to apprehend the person(s) responsible,” Shanley wrote. He added that DPS generally receives “one or two” complaints regarding public exposure per academic year.

Atkins said DPS officers told her the individual responsible is probably a student or a person who lives in the area.

She added that though she was not originally “shaken up about” the incident, it was unsettling in hindsight.

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