It’s an intrusion of privacy that can make a person’s skin crawl—the idea of someone peeking through a window of a home, or a change room curtain, and secretly taking a photo or video with their smartphone.
A 29-year-old man was recently arrested for allegedly recording women while they were undressing or changing at locations around Saskatoon last year. But police won’t say where it happened, only that the complaint came from a business in the 3500 block of 8th Street East.
The man was charged with 18 counts of voyeurism. Const. Tosha Ternes, a member of the Saskatoon Police Service’s vice unit, said that charge is laid when a person allegedly takes an image of someone without them knowing, and where there’s an expectation of privacy.
“So you’re behind either a curtain or a closed door, and you should have that privacy,” she said.
It’s one of two types of voyeurism that police deal with, Ternes explained. The other involves what is referred to as “revenge porn,” when someone distributes intimate photos of someone they know online, often following a break-up. Ternes said it’s more common for police to deal with that type of voyeurism.
“The part of the voyeurism where it’s taking a picture in a public or private residence, that one isn’t as common. This is actually only our first voyeurism file of the year under that type of the law,” she said.
Ternes could not speak specifically to the recent arrest while it makes its way through the court system, but she said the cases they’ve investigated in the past usually involve smartphones.
“I don’t necessarily think cameras are being placed anywhere, or what we know of. We haven’t seen an increase of files coming in where cameras are found,” she said. “But if cameras are being placed and you do see one, then please let the business and the police know about it; that shouldn’t be happening.”
That’s the advice she gives anyone—male or female—who suspects they were recorded or has spotted an intimate photo of themselves online. She said time is especially of the essence in the former case, because surveillance videos that may help identify a suspect only have a life-span of about one to two weeks.
No evidence is needed in order for someone to make a voyeurism complaint. When it comes to cyber-bullying, Ternes said it can be helpful if people save a screen shot of the image and where it was found.
The vice unit officer said police will also alert victims if videos are uncovered during the course of an investigation.
“People just basically need to be aware of their surroundings and that even though you do have that expectation of privacy, it might not always be there,” Ternes said.