Repeat intruders attracted to South Campus buildings

Amy Hamblin

Mike Kopera was startled to find a 26-year-old Chicago woman standing in the men’s bathroom in his residence hall a few weeks ago.

But it wasn’t the first time she has tracked down the Communication senior. Kopera, a Foster-Walker Complex resident assistant, said he has encountered the woman at least 10 times in the last three years. She once knocked on his door and offered him a CD. He has spotted her hanging around at least six buildings on campus.

“I don’t feel threatened by her, but she appears at the oddest moments,” Kopera said. “She can get away with it because she looks about the age of students.”

Shaniel Reed is well-known among University Police. She has been arrested at least 10 times on charges of trespass to campus buildings, said Asst. Chief Daniel McAleer of UP. Officers handcuffed a suspect identified as Reed and led her out of Norris University Center April 27 after employees caught her eating in Willie’s Food Court.

Trespassing on private property is a misdemeanor and usually merits a fine. But offenders can get up to six months in jail, depending on the circumstances. Lenient punishments don’t deter repeat trespassers from returning to campus, McAleer said.

“We are situated in the second largest court system (in the United States),” he said. “Only so much can be done. They’re not going to incarcerate them generally because they’re not violent offenders.”

After past arrests, Reed has failed to appear for her court dates, The Daily reported in November 2003. When she’s arrested, she is usually served with warrants charging her with failure to appear in court on previous trespass charges.

Kopera said Reed enjoys interacting with students and isn’t necessarily trying to prey on them. But UP has arrested her on theft charges in the past, McAleer said.

Reed could not be reached for comment. No name or phone number is listed for the South Side house where she has told UP and Chicago police she lives.

McAleer said many campus trespassers are homeless, looking for a place to stay. Sometimes homeless people stay or sleep in the student lounge in the basement of Fisk Hall, said Emilie Hernandez, the supervisor for business operations at the Medill School of Journalism.

She said increased police patrol of the building has helped curb the problem, but the issue will never entirely disappear. A staff member on Wednesday reported a suspicious person lingering on the first floor of Fisk, McAleer said. The caller told police the man seemed confused and said he wanted to ride horses.

Another suspicious person on Friday night was reported intruding in a first-floor Fisk office Friday, McAleer said.

Weinberg freshman Colin Carney said he saw a “sketchy guy” in the commons area in Willard Residential College during Winter Quarter. He called UP, and the man was arrested on a trespass charge. The man looked homeless, Carney said, and was seen loitering outside the dorm early that day.

Carney, who works as a security monitor at Willard, was not on duty at the time. He said he never had a problem with trespassers trying to enter the dorm while he has been working.

He said the occasional trespasser doesn’t surprise him because NU has an “urban campus.”

“You can walk two blocks to Burger King and see homeless people outside,” Carney said. “What are we going to do — put up a fence?”

University Library is another popular site for homeless people to take shelter, McAleer said. South Campus residence halls and other buildings tend to attract more trespassers, he said, because they are closer to downtown Evanston.

Although many homeless people wander into buildings for shelter, McAleer said other trespassers come to campus with the “express ed purpose to victimize students.”

In October police arrested a man they said was carrying a gun in Foster-Walker after a laptop was stolen from a dorm room earlier that night.

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]