Covert Cameras All Too Often Used for Acts of Voyeurism

Institutions and businesses with public restrooms are urged to take more precautions to ensure that facilities aren’t bugged.

WASHINGTON – As tiny, hidden cameras have become more readily available, lawyers and victim advocates say crimes of voyeurism have become easier to commit – and are potentially more damaging to victims who fear the recorded videos and images of them can be posted online or disseminated to others, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The article cites the case of Emma Shulevitz, a 28-year-old Rockville, Md., resident who was among the women who used a changing room at the National Capital Mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath in Washington, D.C., where a rabbi admitted last month to secretly recording women with a hidden camera.

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Shulevitz said she was shocked when she first learned of the allegations against Rabbi Barry Freundel.

“Now, I think it could happen anywhere,” Shulevitz, who is a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, told the Baltimore Sun. The suit names the National Capital Mikvah and the Rabbinical Council of America, of which Freundel was a leader, among others.

“Voyeurism has always existed, but that was kind of a discreet incident of invasion of privacy,” Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told the newspaper. “Because of the Internet, because of video, people’s privacy is being invaded over and over and over again – and even if that’s not happening, it’s always a person’s fear that’s not in their control.”

Though no national statistics tracking video voyeurism crimes are available, the Baltimore area has seen several recent high-profile cases, according to the newspaper.

Kyle Muehlhauser, who was president of The Rams Head Group, is accused of secretly taping women in the bathroom of his company’s restaurant in Savage. He is awaiting an April 23 court appearance.

Freundel, who taught at Towson University before resigning in February, pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism in D.C. Superior Court that month.

And Dr. Nikita Levy, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, was accused of secretly photographing or filming patients in his office. Levy killed himself during an investigation, according to the newspaper.

“All you have to do is look at your own phone and see how rapidly the technology has evolved,” Mia Fernandez, executive director of the Washington-based National Center for Victims of Crime, told the newspaper. “The use of a mini-cam has become easier and less expensive.”

Institutions and businesses with public restrooms need to take more precautions to ensure that facilities aren’t bugged, attorney Allen J. Lowe, who is representing women in a case against the University of Delaware, where a graduate student was accused of secretly recording women in bathrooms, told the newspaper.

“As you can see with what’s going on just with drones, the ability to photograph people when they are unaware is becoming a common occurrence every day,” Lowe said.

Hidden cameras are so commonplace now that people can buy technology to detect them, Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security, a New York-based company that offers a variety of security and surveillance products, told the newspaper.

His company sells a mini hidden-camera detector and other “counter surveillance” products. When it was introduced in 2007, the detector cost about $400. Today, the price has gone down to $99.95.

The detector is marketed online as a convenient device that women can throw into their purse to check dressing rooms and other public places.

“It is unfortunately a common occurrence,” Morris said of hidden cameras being used inappropriately. “There are a lot of people who are concerned.”

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