Advancements in technology have made electronic devices smaller, faster, and "smarter." But that has also empowered a new generation of high-tech peeping Toms.
In New York state, for example, cases involving unlawful surveillance via so-called "perv cams" — i.e., cell phones, pen cameras, or other recording devices — have almost doubled since last year, the New York Daily News reports.
In addition, the accused peepers almost never take their cases to trial.
Of 33 defendants charged with unlawful surveillance in Manhattan in 2010, for example, 28 of them pleaded guilty, according to the Daily News.
Apparently the photographic evidence on their personal digital devices presents a big hurdle for defense lawyers in court. The paper's analysis suggests a correlation between the release of the iPhone in 2007 and a steady rise in the number of digital peeping Tom arrests ever since.
Public transit, public restrooms, and parks with stairs and tiered seating areas tend to attract criminals with small, easy-to-conceal cameras, experts and observers told the Daily News. What's more, these creepy peepers often communicate with each other online to share their stories and their strategies, one observer noted.
In New York, unlawful surveillance is a Class E felony, the lowest level of felony. A conviction can result in prison time.
Of course, New York is not alone in dealing with digital peeping Toms. Some recent cases in the news include:
- An Indiana pastor who allegedly planted videocameras in fake air fresheners in women's toilet stalls at his church;
- A Los Angeles man who allegedly secretly taped women in a department store's fitting rooms and restrooms; and
- An upstate New York man who allegedly placed hidden cameras inside a women's locker room. Police say the man accidentally took a picture of himself as he installed one of the cameras, Albany, N.Y.'s Times Union reported.
- Adam Levinson: Urologist charged with taking videos up woman's skirt (Metro New York)
- Peeping Toms on Your Laptop: Women's Privacy Undressed By Spyware (FindLaw's Technologist)
- TX Ballpark Urinal 'Peeping Tom' Arrested for Child Porn (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
- Computer Tech Peeping Tom: Trevor Harwell Spied Thru Webcams (FindLaw's Legally Weird)