It sounds super creepy, but is all too real. It’s called “video voyeurism,” and it is happening in the Keys. Recently, a male sales clerk was arrested for allegedly recording women customers in a bathroom at a Circle K at MM 92. By chance, a teenage girl found a cell phone inside a toilet paper dispenser and reported it. The clerk was arrested.
But this hasn’t been the only reported case.
“There are a small number of cases but definitely an uptick,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “It’s like a needle in a haystack, so catching them is a fluke, but video voyeurism is happening.” The sheriff warns no public bathroom is 100 percent safe.
It isn’t just women being targeted. Last June, a 32-year-old Big Pine Key man was arrested for allegedly placing a video camera in the stall of a men’s bathroom on Big Pine. In 2017, an Islamorada man allegedly taped a 21-year-girl in his condo; another man, wanted for 14 accounts of alleged voyeurism in the Upper Keys involving two underage victims, was arrested in Washington state.
“They aren’t just using smart phones, but pinhole cameras with bluetooth the size of erasers that can be easily hidden,” said Ramsay. Some cameras are made to look like coat hooks. He warns men and women to take two minutes to check any bathroom, public or private, and look for anything that seems oddly angled or slightly out of place.
“It’s people with the slightest bit of control, like store employees, homeowners and even roommates. They can be pretty bold about it.” While public bathrooms are obvious, there have been cases in private homes, as well as libraries and schools throughout the state. Ramsay advises that if there is suspicion, do not confront the store employee or homeowner but leave and contact law enforcement to handle the situation.
Video voyeurism is defined as when a person uses an imaging device to secretly view someone in a private area without permission. If caught and over 19, it is a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison, and with a prior conviction, it is a second degree felony with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
“It’a part of life now; everyone has access to a camera, so be cautious and suspicious,” said the sheriff.
Under Florida Statute 810.145, the crime of video voyeurism is committed when a person motivated by amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit intentionally uses an imaging device without permission to secretly view: Another person dressing, undressing, or privately exposing their body; or under or through another person’s clothing, for the purpose of viewing the other person’s body or undergarments.