Camera Phones Pose New Problem For Police - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/8/04-East Texas

Camera Phones Pose New Problem For Police

You see them all over town, you may even own one yourself.  Cell phones equipped with tiny cameras have given people unprecedented convenience when it comes to snapping a picture.  But that added convenience comes at a price.

Just this week in Tyler, a man was arrested for using a cameraphone to take pictures of teenage girls at a public pool.  On Friday, 43-year-old William Mark Payne was arrested and charged with two counts of  "Improper photography to arouse or gratify."  It's thought to be the first time anyone has been arrested in Tyler under that charge.

We wanted to know just how easy it can be to use these camera phones to take pictures of unwitting subjects.  What we found out might scare you.

Clear skies and warm weather a picture perfect day to spend at the park Sunday.  But it's just these types of public places, police say, a new law banning a certain type of picture taking was meant for.

Sergeant Brian Tomlin of the Tyler Police Department:

"Initially, the law was to cover public beaches and things of that nature, and then the law was updated to where any type of photography that was intended to gratify anyone sexually was unlawful."

Tomlin said that is what one man in Tyler was doing this week, and said he used a new technology to try and get away with it.

"It's potentially easier for somebody to break this law and get away with it because of the nature of the camera phones."

Just how easy is it?  At Bergfeld Park in Tyler, we were able to snap dozens of pictures of parents and their children using a cameraphone of our own, and without anyone having the slightest idea?  Parents like Loy Frazier of Bullard, who was spending the day with his two children at the park, said it's a concern.

"Iit's scary that somebody can just come up to you, be 15-20 feet away from you and take pictures of you and your kids and what you are doing and not even know."

Tomlin said the new phones do make it tough to know when someone is breaking the law, but said everyone should stay aware.

"My advice would be if you see anybody acting peculiar, strange or just out of the ordinary or if you have a suspicion that they may be taking photographs in an unnatural manner then they should call the police immediately."

Advice parents like Frazier will take to keep their families safe.

"You like to think people are genuine, good people, but with these types of capabilities you know it's just hard to say what they can do."

The law punishing offenders for taking these types of pictures is section 21.15 of the Texas penal code.  It has only been on the books in Texas since 2003.

Some larger cities have already begun taking action of their own, banning camera phones in areas such as swimming pools and gyms.

Chris Gibson, reporting
cgibson@kltv.com

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