Perverts, Spies & Videotape, or, How I Busted a Criminal

It was supposed to be a 10 minute errand. It turned into a two hour stint at the mall involving the police, security and a foreign detainee. Yes, I busted a perv.

Here’s how it went down …

I was in a shoe store (the upscale Arnold Churgin outlet in Sunridge Mall, if you must know). The store had only a few shoppers even at mid-day on a Thursday.
I was slipping on some shoes for size, being careful to do it daintily since I had chosen to wear a skirt that day. Ladies will know this means not bending over to put them on, but bending your leg at the knee and slipping the shoe on your foot while standing.

The aisles were quite narrow, making it pretty easy to notice the South-Asian-looking man who kept getting in my way. He was in my space, which was annoying. Even more so, he had a large backpack with him that was constricting the narrow space further. I moved down the aisle to create some clearance between myself, him, and another shopper. Boy was I snappish inside my head when he AGAIN insisted on admiring a pair of ladies strappy sandals DIRECTLY behind me.
So, I noticed him because he was in my space, because he was studying women’s shoes, and because I got a weird vibe. But I rolled my eyes to myself and selected another pair of shoes to try on anyway. Creep.

As soon as he put his backpack at my feet and I felt the fabric brush the sides of my ankles I knew.

As a journalist, I’ve done this story before; a guy either has a pinhole camera in his shoe and steps a little too close, or he has it in a bag that he drops at your feet. With it he gets a great view up your skirt. And a major thrill when he gets home.

As soon as the backpack hit the floor, I thought, “You have got to be kidding me.” Sure enough when I looked down at the backpack, my mind knew what to look for; a tiny camera, the reflection of a lens… something not right. And my eye was drawn to it right away. A tiny black camera tucked into a side pouch, its evil little beady eye staring up at me.

As time slowed perceptibly around me, I debated the options in my head, feeling that strange luxury of time to make a decision that only occurs when you have just a split second.

My choices were these; kick him in the nuts, make a scene, grab the backpack and smash his pervy little head with it, then holler for a 9-1-1- call.  Or, walk away, pretend nothing had happened, and call the cops to arrest his pervy little ass.

I figured a fight and a loud dramatic scene would end up with him running off, never to be seen again… with whatever pictures he had snapped under my skirt posted on shortdickmanandhisupskirtfestish.com. That was the worst of all options, as far as I figured it.

So I meandered away, pretending to take interest in the childrens size-twos, all the while, getting out my cell and pretending to read a text, while actually dialling the cops. I whispered to the dispatcher what was going on, and they said officers were on the way. But in the meantime, buddy had vanished. I was busy giving the operator a description of the guy and telling them where he was… but suddenly, just as fast as he arrived… he was gone.

At that point I was furious, and did what the police always advise you NEVER to do (And DID in this case). I went after him.

Still on the phone with 9-1-1, I walked out into the mall looking for him, and quickly spotted him and his backpack a couple stores down. He was easy to recognize and spot from the backpack– and the close-up view we’d had of each other in the store. I kept giving our location and direction of travel while I stalked him at a distance. Security had been alerted by the 9-1-1 op and after a few minutes I bumped into a guard, gave him the lowdown, and we continued watching him.

At that point I think he got hinky because he slipped into a bathroom. The guards held the fort outside the door as we all waited for the police, who came charging into the mall with stern faces and purposeful, quick strides. I was so very pleased at how seriously they were taking this.

Eventually the perv was cornered in the washroom by uniformed police officers.  His bag was searched and he was promptly arrested when a camera and recording equipment was found squirreled away inside. I would later learn that there were at least 10 other womens’ images on the camera.

But here’s the best part. I work as a TV news producer.  As soon as the 911 dispatcher let me hang up the phone, I called our newsroom and asked for a camera right away. As our suspect sat in the back of a cop car, a TV news cameraman stood outside taking HIS picture. As soon as he realized there was a lens pointing at him, he ducked. Seems that for someone so attached to photography, dickweed is camera shy himself.

The man was charged with voyerism… it’s a new criminal code offence that carries a max of 5 years in jail. The suspect is a British citizen, and it’s not clear what he was doing in Canada or Calgary. In very short order, and after hiring the best defence attorney in Calgary, the man pleaded guilty.  From what I understand from detectives, trying to secretly videotape a TV PRODUCER is a bad idea, mostly because we’re familiar with how to give good descriptions of people from listening to police scanners, and covering that kind of news, we’re not afraid of punks, and when it comes to spotting a hidden camera, well, DUH.  In the end, a fine, a donation to women’s charities and a deportation order solved the criminal case.  But he was ordered deported back to Britain.

If there is anything to be learned from this it’s that you should always trust your instincts; when you get an odd feeling or a strange vibe, change your situation. Don’t ignore nagging thoughts. And call the cops if you think you see or DO SEE something bad/ugly/illegal going on. Too many people I’ve talked to since this happened have said, “Oh, I wouldn’t know what to do” or “I’d be too afraid I was wrong”. That’s how guys like this can get away with crimes for so long.  And how this man DID; after his computer was seized as evidence, THOUSANDS of upskirt images were found.  It’s unclear how many he took and how many were shares by others, but bottom line, from what I’ve learned, this is happening far more than many women know.   Don’t be afraid to speak up.

In the end, my story did end up on the news… but that’s really a product of who I work for. It was very odd being on the other side of the camera, but if it helps convince someone else to get a scummy perv into a jail cell, I’m glad.

One final note. The errand was to pick out a kick-ass pair of cowboy boots for the annual Calgary Stampede. I like to think that they’re certainly that.

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