Attorney At Law Magazine
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‘You would never know it was there’: Peeping Toms go high-tech with covert cameras
When it comes to hidden cameras, cellphones are just the beginning.
PHOENIX – It’s a night Ashley Diaz will never forget.
“I was living alone and coming off a 12 to 13 hour work shift, really tired and I’m in my closet changing,” Diaz said.
It was February of 2015.
“I only have one window in my room and this window had a curtain on it but the fan had pushed the curtain open, just slightly, it literally made a triangle opening,” Dias said, “very small.”
Diaz was alone inside her apartment in Ahwatukee.
“As I’m changing I feel as though someone is watching me – so I stop. Literally I just have my shirt off,” Diaz said.
“I acted as though I was busy, like I was leaving the room, however, I didn’t leave the room.”
Diaz positioned herself so she could peek out the window and see if anyone was watching her from outside.
“I went around the window, went underneath and came up to it,” she said, “and when I go up to it – I see there’s an eyeball staring back at me,” Diaz said while taking a deep breath, “that sent chills down my spine, I was petrified and I didn’t know what to do.”
Diaz came face-to-face with a man watching her undress through her window.
As mortifying as that sounds – nowadays technology is making it easier than ever for “peeping Toms” to be even creepier and get away with it.
“It’s really just given perpetrators more tools to engage in this type of behavior,” said Tasha Menaker, director of sexual violence response initiatives at the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual Violence.
“It is a crime that’s about power and control,” Menaker said, “it’s not just about harmlessly observing someone it is about taking their privacy away from them.”
So what is this crime of voyeurism?
“Essentially it is viewing someone either undressing or having sex without their consent,” Menaker said.
While official statistics on video voyeurism are hard to come by, in Arizona alone there have been a slew of high-profile cases.
From people putting hidden cameras in public restrooms to just last month a Goodyear police officer was sent to prison for using his cellphone to record women undressing at a Valley tanning salon.
When it comes to hidden cameras, cellphones are just the beginning. 12 News had two well-known licensed private investigators show us just how covert cameras have become.
Spying made easy
Dorian Bond is a PI from Bond Investigations which has offices in Phoenix, Los Angeles and other major cities around the world.
Bond showed us a camera, hidden inside a fake key fob, he’s used.
“This camera has a lens right there,” Bond said as he pointed to a small black dot near the top of the key fob, “it looks like anything else, if you walked into a bar, had your key and set this down on the counter nobody would know the difference.”
With lenses and camera hardware being so small in size, Bond says you can fit one almost anywhere or inside anything.
Including a fake rock – another inconspicuous camera he’s used in the past.
“You just need a pin prick inside a drop ceiling somewhere and just put a drop camera there and it can cover the entire room,” he said.
At GE Investigations in central Phoenix, George the PI encases his own cameras in a variety of everyday items.
From fake electrical boxes, plastic sewage pipes, small handheld lighters to daily planners and even buttons that can be sewn on most men’s shirts.
The cameras on all of them are so small they’re hard to see with the naked eye.
“The camera is literally right there,” George says as he points to a small black dot on the front of an electrical box.
We asked George and Bond how easy it is for people to get covert cameras like this.
Both told us, very easy.
“They have spy shops around here you can buy them on amazon,” Bond said. “I use Amazon a lot because it’s a lot cheaper.”
“They sell a product for valid reasons,” George said.
“But the idea that somebody could do this for a few dollars it’s a concern,” George said when asked about people who may want to use the cameras to spy on people for sinister reasons.
At the Phoenix Spy Shop on 12th Street & Northern Avenue you can buy everything from self-defense tools, to GPS surveillance and security, and a variety of covert cameras.
“It all depends on what someone is looking for,” said Skye Vasconcellos from the Phoenix Spy Shop, “if it’s to keep an eye on your kids or maybe a cheating spouse.”
Vasconcellos showed us his best sellers.
“The most common are AC adapters where cameras are built into the unit itself,” he said.
The store has a USB charger that can boost someone’s batteries while also recording their every move.
“The USB are functional so you can charge your cellphone,” Vasconcellos showed us while pointing to a small back part of the charger, “the camera is down in there.”
The store also has hidden cameras in the form of what looks like a smoke alarm or even a fully functioning alarm clock.
“It’s just a black plastic screen you’re going to see but the camera is looking right at you,” “he said while showing us the clock.
So the question is, with cameras being so available and affordable – is there any way to protect yourself from being spied on without knowing it?
Vasconcellos showed us one of several products they have to detect hidden cameras.
The basic device uses a red strobe light to reflect light off the lens of a camera that may be hidden in an object.
They also sell radio frequency detectors which can help detect any wireless signals.
Still, according to our private investigators, neither detection method is full proof.
“There is no sense of protection in terms of a cure all,” George said, “if somebody wanted to set up a camera without your knowledge and you weren’t inquisitive – you would never know it was there.”
He says simple awareness and just being inquisitive is your biggest weapon.
In addition to spying on people for their clients, private investigators also deal with clients who want to know if they’re being spied on.
“Has somebody given you a gift lately, maybe a new alarm clock or DVD player,” George said, “Cameras are easily embedded in those items.”
Licensed private investigators have to abide by state and federal laws, so if you’re considering opening up an investigation on someone they highly suggest contacting a professional to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal.
From someone who was a victim of voyeurism, Ashley Diaz also stressed awareness.
She was able to take the power back from her peeping Tom after catching him in the act of peeping on someone else and getting him arrested.
Diaz advises anyone who’s been violated in this way to notify authorities and get help.
“Not a lot of people are aware of just how traumatizing this can be,” she said. “It’s a monster and it will consume you if you let it and that’s why you have to seek help.”
If you are in need of any help in regards to sexual crimes, you can reach out to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual Violence.