‘Cosy Dell Creepers’ Still at Large

‘Cosy Dell Creepers’ Still at Large

Fearful students feel abandoned by authorities

A spate of incidents in Cosy Dell is making students feel unsafe in their own flats, as speculation suggests there could be more than one ‘Cosy Dell Creeper’ on the street. Despite the installation of security cameras and police activity, students have still reported feeling unsafe, with some suggesting that the University should be doing more in response to the myriad of incidents.

Critic Te Ārohi spoke with five flats on Cosy Dell, all of which house female students who don’t feel safe in their own homes. Following an incident where an intruder entered a group's home, four of these flats had installed security cameras on their property, and one of them purposefully hung curtains in their lounge to ensure privacy. Two men have already been seen snooping on one flat’s cameras, with one of them having allegedly been arrested. 

Speaking to the incident, one of the flatties, Amanda* told Critic Te Ārohi, “On our cameras, we had a guy come and play with the washing – one of my leotards actually – and we’d seen it on the cameras. By the time we got outside, he was gone.” 

Their neighbours reported that the guy who was arrested (“the Jeffery Dahmer look-alike”) had not only been creeping in Cosy Dell, but on George Street as well. Yet the girls who had caught the intruder on their property “hadn’t heard too much on the arrest yet.” 

Senior Constable John Woodhouse has said that recent patrolling of the area and reports from residents has “resulted in the apprehension of three individuals, two of whom are presently facing charges in the Dunedin District Court.” 

Now, the group of flats are stating that they feel incredibly “unsafe” and “scared”. Some of the girls Critic spoke with have resorted to sleeping in one another’s beds for safety. “When we moved in, we had heard about the Cosy Creeper, but we just thought it was a joke, like a yarn,” said Sarah*. Parents of the flats are also concerned for the safety of Cosy Dell flatters, with Sarah saying, “My mum’s literally like, ‘I found another five person flat so you could move.’”

Many of the girls Critic spoke to were of the opinion that there had been a lack of communication and support from both the Police and the University. While there’s been a “tiny bit” more help now with Campus Watch “circulating a bit more”, a resident from another Cosy Dell flat Sally* said, “To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed because there've been many incidents throughout the years and even this year there have been quite a few and the cops haven’t bothered to put one security camera up or an extra street light.” 

Responding to student concerns, Senior Constable John Woohouse said that police had “zero tolerance” for these offences. “Police will continue to prioritise our patrolling, and work with the University Campus Watch teams to enhance security and give reassurance and crime prevention advice to our student community.” 

In a separate response to Critic Te Ārohi, University of Otago Proctor Dave Scott said, "There were two recent matters in the Cosy Dell Road area which Campus Watch worked with Dunedin Police over. We are grateful to the students who reported suspicious behaviour and provided important evidence and in doing so assisted Police in being able to make two arrests. We worked closely with the students at the time and offered support as needed."

Asked whether he thought the Cosy Dell area was dangerous, the Proctor responded that he doesn’t believe the Cosy Dell Road area is any more dangerous than any other street or road in the city. “No-one, no matter where they reside, should be complacent about keeping themselves and their properties secure and safe,” he said. 

According to Woodhouse, “Police have identified the area of Cosy Dell Road and Kyle Street as an area of increased criminal activity.” Over the past six years, 23 incidents have been reported in the area. “The majority of incidents involve peeping and peering, and thefts of clothing from lines at night,” said Woodhouse. Sally felt there was a responsibility for people, including past tenants and landlords, to have warned them about past incidents around Cosy Dell prior to moving in.

A former Cosy Dell resident from 2021, Sara, recalled her experiences living at the Whitehouse flat. “One of my flatmates would be in her room, getting changed, undressed, doing her makeup, whatever, and once she saw an iPhone camera, basically peered in the window, and she was naked at the time, and was just like, ‘Oh my god’”. Sara said that the incident was not isolated, “He knew exactly her routine. He knew she was always the last one to leave the house, she’d always be getting ready late [...] it made her feel like she was literally being stalked.” Sara had similar sentiments about the general lack of support: "They can definitely do better.” 

Tired of living in a state of paranoia and fear, the girls of the area have now started a group chat to keep each other informed about incidents which may occur. For future residents of the area, the girls agreed that they “one hundred percent” plan on warning them about the Cosy Dell Creeper.

The fifth flat we spoke to told Critic that they'd had little to no communication from the police after an incident that occurred at their neighbours’ flat. “We literally woke up and there were police cars outside, and the police had come to every other house except ours,” one of the residents of the flat said. “They didn’t speak to us or tell us anything,” she said, not outside of advising the flat to “always lock your door, close the curtains, close the window when you shower.”

Proctor Dave Scott has given the same advice to residents: “Lock your windows and doors in the evenings and any other time no one is at the address. Pull curtains at night or when changing." He would also encourage students to "put the Campus Watch Control Room phone number into their cell phone so it's there should they ever need it" (0800 479 5000). 

As well as Campus Watch, the Proctor said that there are many other support services that students can turn to if they are feeling stressed or worried by these events. "The University reminds students that Student Health Services, Disablity Information and Support, and Te Whare Tāwharau are just a few places students can seek support if they are feeling personally affected by these incidents."

Speaking to recent arrests made in Cosy Dell, Detective Mark Durant said, "Our message to students and wider community is don't feel bad about calling us to report something or someone who looks out of the ordinary - you're not going to get in trouble if you're wrong, and it could prevent you or someone else from becoming the victim of crime."

This article first appeared in Issue 11, 2024.
Posted 5:23pm Saturday 11th May 2024 by Harriette Boucher.