Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

The Creep Factor

with 3 comments

One of the more bemusing thing about living in a largely rural area is watching the vast disconnect between local and national news.

Last week, two tornados touched down in Connecticut.  One of them hit in Greenwich-Stamford, but the other hit just outside Hartford.  The local CBS station, WFSB, is in Hartford.  The tornado became their lead story for days, in spite of the fact that it was an F0, only sporadically reaching an F1, and not much damage was done, and nobody died.

Yesterday, I was looking almost desperately for news about Egypt, never mind about Brazil and Portugal and the eighty other places around the world that seem to be mired in riots and coming apart at the seams.

The big headline on the local news stations was about a man, aged 25, who had been picked up “acting suspiciously” in a local amusement park, and whose camera had later been discovered to have pictures of the chests and rear ends of numerous “teenaged” girls,  some of them more girls than teenaged.  Some of them, in other words, seeming to be about eleven.

I say seeming to be because the incident is even more bizarre than it seems on the surface.

If you want, you can go here and read one of the longer and more detailed news pieces:


There is definitely a creep factor here that is more than the usual sort of thing–hiding in the woods, that camera full of what amounts to child pornography (if soft pornography), the various aliases.

The story itself is, I think, a little confusing. 

The very first headlines out of the case harped insistantly on the picture taking angle, but the story itself seems to indicate that what initially attracted the attention of staff at the park was other behavior entirely. 

Granted, that behavior was equally bizarre, if not equally creepy. And it was certainly exacerbated by the way the man behaved once the police caught up with him.

I’m  not even going to do that thing where I fret about criminalizing this kind of behavior.  Quassy is privately owned and run.  It can admit and retain, or refuse to admit and eject, anybody it wants to.

Given all the reports, if I’d been the Quassy staff, I’d have wanted him out of there, too.

What’s been puzzling me over the last twenty four hours are the charges. 

Granted that my sons are right and the issue, at the time, ws to find something they could use to lock the man up and keep him away from the park and the very young girls while they sorted everything out, the “voyeurism” thing makes no sense to me.

What voyeurism means–or what I thought it meant–is that thing where you drill a hole in the wall behind one of the stalls in the women’s bathroom, or peak through somebody’s windows at night when they’re not aware that you’re there.

In other words, I thought the entire point of voyeurism was that the perpetrator invaded somebody’s private space, a place where the victim had a reasonable expectation of being unobserved.

 But the last place you could have a reasonable expectation of being unobserved is a beach which is open to the public, no  matter how privately owned.

If I was this guy’s lawyer, I’d be all over the “reasonable expectation” thing.  I don’t see how they can make that one stick, and I’m wondering why they’re even bothering to try.

They seem to have even otherwise to hold onto him–forgery, giving false information to a police officer, etc–and they might eventually end up with more.

It looks to me that they’ve  held back from filing child pornography charges because they can’t yet prove that any of the pictures belonged to an actual child.  The one intelligent thing the man seems to have done is not to take pictures of faces.

The one person whose face he did take a picture of seems to have been definitely over the age of eighteen, although if she knew nothing about the video he took of her, that would at least be voyeurism as I’ve always understood it.

Part of the time, I’ve been wondering how else you could structure a law to make this kind of thing illegal, and all I come up with are “solutions” that aren’t really solutions.  To make it illegal to take pictures of people you don’t know and without their permission would not only shut down photojournalism, it would put a lot of completely innocent tourists in jail.

Part of the time, I’ve been thinking about something else.

For centuries–and still, in many parts of the world–women and girls did not leave the house “scantily dressed” precisely because we were worried about who might be watching and with what intent.

We devised and enforced dress codes for children that clearly demarcated children from adults, sort of like big neon signs yelling JAIL BAIT for everyone to see.

The last of those I remember disappeared in the early Sixties, and I remember, at the time, being glad to see them go.  That was the ban on nylon stockings on girls who were not yet out of high school. 

Until you left for college, you were supposed to be restricted to bobby sox and knee socks, and that was that.

Then  Lynn Clark showed up in sixth grade with nylons and ballet flats, and the school did nothing about it.  By the following fall, we were all struggling with garter belts.

I am not in the least bit interesting in going back to that way of life–although I do think panyhose were an invention of the devil–but it continually surprises me that we have so  much changed our underlying understanding of human nature that we’re shocked when things like this happen.

I have a gut feeling that this actually says something good about  us, something about how were are not as decadent or depraved or as sinking into the abyss of destruction as I sometimes think we are.

On some level somewhere, our day to day lives are still mostly well ordered and trustworthy.  Faced with what I would call ordinary scuzz ball behavior, we respond to it as an anomaly.

In the meantime, we’ve managed to lock this guy up where he won’t bother anybody in the immediate future, and I’d be willing to bet we’re going to be able to lock him up long term.



Written by janeh

July 6th, 2013 at 9:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'The Creep Factor'

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  1. Well, they’ve got those photos of a woman (or girl) in a bedroom, which would seem to make at least one charge of voyeurism plausible. By and large I’d agree: you have no reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re out in public, and no sane way to ban photos taken in public. You’d soon be reduced to discussing what the photographer was thinking of, and I don’t think much of telepathic police and courts.

    Of course, this means people acting weird in public are being denied dignity, so it’s presumably unconstitutional now.

    David Niven told a story about going down with Errol Flynn one afternoon and watching the girls leaving Hollywood High School. After a while, a policeman came along.
    “What are you gentlemen doing here?”
    “Nothing, officer: just admiring the view.”
    “I thought so. Get outta here.”
    That would have been some time prior to WWII, and the cop’s behavior was contrary to every principle of libertarian thought, modern law enforcement, and many people’s understanding of the Constitution. It’s also necessary to maintaining a civilization, which is our problem.

    We’re at a Wile E. Coyote moment, climbing a ladder which has been gone some time. Now we’ve looked down and seen there is no ladder. The next bit is fairly predictable.


    6 Jul 13 at 3:24 pm

  2. I think I want the authorities to find some actual crime this guy committed. Hiding in the woods and taking pictures (of anything in public view) is not a crime. It’s really not. Creepy? Yeah. Probably. Criminal? Not. The private venue had every right to throw him out, but I’m not sure they should have involved the police.

    He might have been a professional photographer. He might be doing research on pre-adolescent bathing suit styles. Or he might be a sexual predator trolling for victims. But it’s really important to find out exactly which before arresting him. And I’m sorry, arresting people for “lying to police” is exactly what got Martha Stewart two years in the can, and it was wrong then and it’s wrong now. If that’s the only offense, fuck the police. They should expect to be lied to, and I bet they do. It’s a crappy “we can arrest you for whatever we feel like” offense used when they can’t find anything better.

    Taking pictures of people when they don’t know it and haven’t consented is rude, but not criminal. If they never know and aren’t harmed by it, what is the crime? After all, we’ve all been caught in the background of some tourist’s snapshots. Actual victimization of people, prove it. Otherwise this guy is going to walk, and should. And the police and prosecution are going to look ridiculous, which isn’t a net win for anyone.


    6 Jul 13 at 3:32 pm

  3. I agree with everything that Lymaree wrote. The only vaguely suspicious photograph was a naked woman in a bedroom. And for all we know, she could be a consenting girl friend, model, or prostitute.

    The article gives no information about the suspicious activity or forgery. Why did the paper think it permissible to publish full face photographs of someone arrested but not yet tried or convicted on anything?


    6 Jul 13 at 5:39 pm

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