I Recorded What You Did Last Summer 

 

Do you ever have that nagging feeling that somebody is watching you? Well, it could just be that you’re not the paranoid mental case your friends think you are. Yes, it could be that hidden inside your living room, bedroom, bathroom, office… or even the changing room at your favorite clothing store is a tiny video camera recording your every move.

The act is called video voyeurism, and it’s become so commonplace that there are laws enacted to prosecute those who do it—and it’s becoming more commonplace every day.

“Luckily, we haven’t had the amount of problems other places have,” says Detective Shannon Wiles of the Major Crimes Division at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve only had two cases this year. One involved a camera covertly placed under a towel in a closet, and the other was a bit more involved. It involved a man who went to great lengths to disguise two separate cameras that he then placed in his home’s bathroom and aimed toward the shower and toilet area.

“This man took the motor out of an electric shaver and a deodorant case and then put cameras inside each,” continues Detective Wiles. “He went so far as to place small solar chargers on the outside of both objects so the camera would have a constant source of power. A girl in the home became suspicious, investigated the shaver and discovered the camera. She alerted the sheriff’s office, and we made an arrest.”

Wiles says that everyone has to be alert at all times. However, he does note that as disturbing as it may be, it is not illegal for someone to video another person in a public place. This means that if you are on the beach or in any public place and someone decides to film you or your children—as long as the video doesn’t attempt to portray you or your children in any state of undress or look underneath your clothing, it is entirely legal. A video voyeurist must attempt to take photographs of a person in a state of undress or under his or her clothing.

Video voyeurism can take place anytime, anywhere, and it is up to the individual to be aware of their surroundings.

Dressing Room Distrust

In December 2017, Casselberry resident, Jose Santiago, was arrested after video recording a woman dressing in a fitting room at a clothing store in the Altamonte Mall. A woman who was trying on clothing accused Santiago of taking photos of her as she undressed. Santiago fled when he was approached by mall security but was later apprehended by police. He told authorities he had taken approximately 100 photos of the woman under the door of the dressing room. He used his cellphone to take the photos and viewed them on his Apple Watch as he took them.

Police told media sources that Santiago had deleted the photos from his cellphone and attempted to delete them off his Apple Watch as he talked with investigators. Authorities confiscated both items and turned them over to forensics experts to recover the deleted photos. Santiago told police that he targeted stores with unisex changing rooms, which gave him the opportunity to video record women.

Cameras In Disguise

In May 2017, Palm Beach Gardens High School coach and athletic director, Bill Weed, was arrested after a minor girl discovered a video camera hidden in an alarm clock he gave her as a gift.

The clock contained a motion-activated camera that recorded audio and video. The device had night-vision capability and could live stream recordings to a cellphone or computer. It also contained an SD card used to store videos and photos. The card was found to contain multiple nude photos and videos of the girl.

Weed, who was coach of the girls’ lacrosse team at the school, told authorities he was unaware of the camera inside the clock. According to media sources, Weed is presently under investigation for video voyeurism and child sexual exploitation. Police confiscated computers, cellphones and other electronic devices from his home. Weed was placed on administrative reassignment by the school district pending the outcome of the investigation.

Beware Of Rentals

In October, 56-year-old Longboat Key resident Wayne Natt was arrested after a couple discovered a video camera disguised as a smoke detector in the bedroom of a condo they were renting through Airbnb.

While lying in bed, the couple happened to notice a black dot on the smoke detector above them. When they took it down to investigate, they discovered it was a recording device that recorded video and audio onto an SD card.

“If the gentleman who discovered the camera didn’t have a background in electronics, the device might never have been discovered,” says Lieutenant Detective Robert Bourque of the Longboat Key Police Department. “To be honest, the devices have become so small and well-concealed that many of them simply can’t be detected with the human eye. The best you can do is look for something that seems obviously out of place, but even that might not help.”

Natt is facing four counts of video voyeurism, and more complaints may be forthcoming.

“The City of Longboat Key hopes to confiscate Natt’s condo that was used in the commission of a felony, and we hope that penalties like this and jail time will help deter others from attempting the same thing,” Bourque says.

Airbnb also took immediate action, permanently banning Natt from using their services.

Upskirt Voyeurism

In May 2017, an alert employee at a Jupiter, Florida, Walmart noticed a man following young girls through the clothing department with the camera app on his cellphone open. Security video footage showed the man take photos up the skirt of an 18-year-old woman as she bent down to inspect a piece of clothing.

Authorities were called and police arrested Lake Park resident Chad Gorman for video voyeurism. According to media reports, Gorman said he didn’t know it was illegal to take the photos. Police found more than 450 photos of women along with eight upskirt photos and one video of young girls on his cellphone.

This type of voyeurism has become so commonplace that authorities have named it “upskirt” and “downblouse” voyeurism.

It Could Happen To You

According to a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office report, an 81-year-old woman and a 59-year-old man were unknowingly video recorded having consensual sexual relations in one of the rooms at a St. Petersburg assisted living facility. The video was then posted on the social media site Snapchat where it was viewed by a St. Petersburg resident. The person then reported the video to police, and further investigation led to the arrest of Alexis Williams, 20, an employee of the facility.

Williams was arrested and charged with video voyeurism and video voyeurism dissemination. She was dismissed from the facility.

Rapidly advancing technology is making it easier than ever for video voyeurs to invade our privacy. Cellphones have become cameras and virtually any object you can name can be found for purchase online outfitted with a video and audio recording device. Cases of video voyeurism are on the rise around the country. The word from law enforcement is to be alert at all times in all places.

“Most people have the mentality that ‘this can’t possibly happen to me’ but it can happen to anyone,” Detective Wiles warns. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you go into a dressing room, a restroom in a public place or even just shopping, look around. Watch for persons lurking near you or near changing rooms. Look for objects that seems to be out of place, such as a smoke alarm that shouldn’t be there. If you discover something, check it out. Take it down and look inside it. If you do find a camera, confiscate it and call the police. If you don’t take possession of it, the person who placed it there may take it and destroy it. Keep it in your possession until police arrive and then give it to them. Always, always be on the lookout in all places.”

What Is Video Voyeurism?

Florida Statute 810.145 says:

Video Voyeurism is committed by an individual when he or she—for his or her own amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person—secretly views or electronically transmits a video image of another individual dressing, undressing or privately exposing his or her sexual organs when that person has reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes producing a video image under or through another person’s clothing, for the purpose of viewing the other person’s body or undergarments.

An individual commits the offense of commercial video voyeurism dissemination if that person knows or has reason to believe that an image was created in this manner and sells the image to another person; or having created the image himself or herself, disseminates, distributes or transfers the image to another person for that person to sell the image to others.

Penalties For Video Voyeurism

Perpetrator under the age of 19

  • Up to 12 months of probation
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • First-degree misdemeanor

Perpetrator over the age of 19

  • Up to 5 years of probation
  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Third-degree felony

Perpetrator with a prior conviction

  • Up to 15 years of probation
  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Second-degree felony

Video voyeurism against a child

  • Up to 15 years of probation
  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Second-degree felony
  • Mandatory sex offender designation
Posted in Healthy Living Features

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