Video voyeurs watching you

Local hidden camera crimes on the rise


When prosecutors began to build their case against 35-year-old Steven A. Mains of Palm Bay, they focused in on what they call a key piece of evidence: a video that appears to show a man standing in a bathroom and placing flowers around the camera that is recording the images.

[WEB EXTRA: How camera detector works]

Brevard County Assistant State Attorney Julie Lynch told Local 6 that Mains is the man in the video and the recording was captured by a hidden camera in the bathroom of a house that Mains owned.

The video recorded the most private moments of a woman and her 12-year-old daughter, according to Lynch. She said the woman discovered the hidden camera.

"Horrible. You feel absolutely horrible for the victims involved," said Lynch. "How could someone do this to someone else? Such a violation. Such an invasion of privacy to think someone could even think of doing this and actually do it. Then to find out it's someone you knew. It's such a violation of trust and it's a good thing that it's a crime."

The crime is video voyeurism - secretly recording someone in a place where the victim has a reasonable expectation of privacy, like a rented home, apartment, dressing room, or bathroom. And the number of reported incidents in Central Florida is beginning to grow.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement told Local 6 that arrests for video voyeurism doubled from 2011 to 2012. Law enforcement agencies in Florida made 41 arrests for the crime in 2011 and 83 arrests in 2012. Already this year, 51 people have been charged with video voyeurism.

Local 6 has reported on several of those arrests recently, including a man allegedly caught on Walmart and Target stores surveillance video recording up women's skirts with a camera attached to the bottom of his shopping cart.

"I'm finding overall that video or use of cameras are being incorporated into crimes," said Lynch.

Because the video almost always shows the crime and the suspect, Lynch said video voyeurism is very prosecutable.

Court records show Steven Mains pleaded no-contest to video voyeurism and now faces a third degree felony, up to 15 years in prison, and having to registered as a sex offender. His sentencing is scheduled for December 6 at 9:30 a.m.

Lynch pointed out the law only works if the hidden camera is found, and many are not.

That's why hidden camera detectors are in high demand at Orlando's Spy Store, according to owner Bob Brown Jr.

"We sell to both parties - people trying to detect and people trying to spy," said Brown. "When it comes to the spying part, the less I know the better. I mean, it gets to a point where they'll try and tell me too much and I'm like I can't even sell you this now."

Brown sells detectors that can spot the lens of a hidden camera or pick up the wireless frequency of a wireless camera. He also sells a service that will bring the professionals out to your home to search for cameras.

Lynch suggests if you're suspicious in the slightest that someone is recording you in a place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, report it.

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