An Open Letter from A ‘Creepy Guy’ With a Camera To The Woman Who Reported Him To The Cops

Oct 17, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

An Open Letter from A ‘Creepy Guy’ With a Camera To The Woman Who Reported Him To The Cops

Oct 17, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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David Updike from Cambridge, Massachusetts was ‘detained’ by six policeman after a woman reported him to the cops for taking photos of children in a local park in his open letter just goes to show that not everyone who is sitting on a bench in a park with a camera is a ‘creep’

Dear Neighbor,

Yesterday was a beautiful day, I think you will agree. I decided to take a short walk from my house on Hamilton Street to Dana Park, which I have been coming to almost daily since 1989, the year my son was born. As I often do, I brought my camera, sat on a bench for about 10 minutes, did one lap around the park and headed home.

I had barely gotten across the street when three police cars pulled up: I was told to stop, and swiftly surrounded by six policemen. I was “detained” there for approximately 20 minutes and questioned; another officer returned to the park to find out why you had called them.

My suspected crime, apparently, was having a camera in a public park, and allegedly taking pictures of children. As it turned out, I had taken no pictures that day. But I have been photographing in this neighborhood for 30 years, and have published a children’s book of poems and photographs, always with permission.

The policeman returned and wanted to see my “flip phone,” and then asked me if I knew how he knew I had a flip phone: I didn’t. He knew, he told me, because the woman who called the police had taken a picture of ME, sitting on the bench, and shown him the picture. They then took away my phone, scrolled through the few pictures that were on it.

They continued to hover around me asking questions. As it happened, I was standing near the house where my son now lives, and when my wife appeared, walking down the street after work, and saw me standing in front of his house with six policemen, she instantly feared something terrible had happened to our son. She was shaking, and I explained the situation. She is an English teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School; I am a college professor of English. Our son spent much of the first 15 years of his life in Dana Park.

You must be new in the neighborhood. I am often in the park, on foot or on a bike, talking to friends who have children who play in the playground. I know you were standing very near to me for the entire time I was on the bench, though I could not figure out why. Now I know: you were taking my picture.

Suggestion: the next time you suspect someone is up to no good, perhaps you should say hello, speak to them first and, if still anxious, ask what they are taking pictures of. That’s what people do in a neighborhood park: talk to each other. This would save someone the humiliation and degradation of being stopped and held by the police, and might save the police from wasting their time when they could be doing something more useful, like managing the daily mayhem in Central Square.

The fact that you now have my picture in your phone is both sadly ironic and, well, creepy. Could you please delete it?

Your neighbor,

— David Updike, Hamilton Street

So, how would you handle this?

[via cambridge wicked local | lead photo by Kurt Bauschardt]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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57 responses to “An Open Letter from A ‘Creepy Guy’ With a Camera To The Woman Who Reported Him To The Cops”

  1. aleroe Avatar

    On the other hand, we keep hearing the message “if you see something, say something”. And I can understand it if a woman would not feel safe confronting a man she suspects could be a pedophile. This is a sad statement on our society, but there it is.

    1. murhaaya Avatar

      I wonder what did she see that urged her to report it…

      1. hippiechick257 Avatar

        Apparently a camera.

    2. gs_790 Avatar

      Well… this is the danger of the (I think still pervasive) stranger danger programs. Everyone seems to forget that the vast majority of child abuse/abduction cases involve a family member.

      I don’t think the police are wrong for responding to the woman’s call, but I’m not sure given the setup, that the response justified even one police officer chatting with the man with the camera.

      Oh, and the irony that the lady reporting a creeper was, herself, creeping on the “creeper.”

  2. Cave Art Films Avatar
    Cave Art Films

    That was my experience too in an area where there were NO CHILDREN PRESENT at that time

    1. mike Avatar

      America, where camera = banned; but guns? “Sorry, nothing we can do about that, banning things never works.”

      1. Angel Ramirez Avatar
        Angel Ramirez

        Have you not heard of these things called Gun Free Zones… Look at every single mass shooting the past few years and you will see a pattern. Even the military bases are gun free zones. Go figure.

        And cameras like guns can be banned on private property. PRIVATE = my land and my rules.

    2. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      The Mall is private property and they can (rightfully) tell you to stop recording and/or taking photos on that property. Doesn’t matter if children were present or not.

  3. Jarek Niskiewicz Avatar
    Jarek Niskiewicz

    So glad I do not live in a country full of paranoid idiots…

    1. Denis Mutlu Avatar
      Denis Mutlu

      Аmen to that :D

    2. Wes Dickinson Avatar
      Wes Dickinson

      Yes, the U.S. is full of paranoid idiots.

    3. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      We’re glad you don’t live here as well.

  4. Joseph Gruber Avatar
    Joseph Gruber

    Here’s the other part of this – don’t give up your phone or anything to the police except your ID if required and requested. If you were not being charged with a crime you’re only question should have been, “am I free to go?”

    1. Michael Whitehurst Avatar
      Michael Whitehurst

      There are actually two things you need to do. First, when they ask to see anything other than your ID you should say ” I do not consent to any searches”. If the police think they have probable cause they will search you anyway but it is important that you assert your rights up front and do not voluntarily show them anything. Next, ask “am I being detained?”. If they say yes, shut the hell up and wait. If they say no, then say ” ok, have a great day.” And walk away. We still have rights.

  5. Marc Pujol Avatar
    Marc Pujol

    I used to love to go places like parks and shoot, but these days carrying a camera anywhere within 100 feet of a school or park labels you as a sex offender. Sad to say, in such places you are better off carrying a loaded gun than a camera.

  6. Jens Herbie Hatje Avatar
    Jens Herbie Hatje

    This has made me weary of taking fotos in parks with other people (strangers) in them. I would welcome people who would come up and ask questions.

  7. Rex Deaver Avatar
    Rex Deaver

    I fail to see how an “open” letter, posted on a photography site, will have any effect other than an opportunity for a communal “tsk, tsk” and a bit more mutual bemoaning of our oppressed lot in life.

    1. Rick Avatar

      If you’ll check the links above you will note the letter was originally posted to a local community forum where it actually drew a fair amount of comments. The point of re-posting it on a photography site (beyond the obvious ad revenue) would be to help those who tend to carry around cameras deal with similar situations that may occur in the future.

  8. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
    Petar Maksimovic

    In your face, paranoid, media fed, arrogant, mindless, ‘murican housewife.

  9. Jarod Smith Avatar
    Jarod Smith

    i’m just going to put this right here..

    1. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      No it’s not – but if you’re going to get on a soapbox and whine about your “right” to photograph people without taking into consideration common sense and empathy for how others might feel about you doing so, then you deserve to be harassed and interrogated by the authorities.

    2. Angel Ramirez Avatar
      Angel Ramirez

      I loath this site. They used to have great information however seemingly the vast majority of posts these days are all in relation to police brutality. It sullies the name of the domain.

  10. FrankThinker Avatar

    These incidents were the main drivers for my leaving the country years ago. I see it’s getting even more idiotic. You can keep your fascist little paranoid dystopia. Good luck with the real threats… you know, the men (so far) driven mad by this insane litany of nasty, fearful, busybody, nosy, cowardly acts of passive-aggressive security theater.

  11. Paganator Avatar

    It’s very sad that some people consider men threats by default who must defend their innocence.

  12. Mike Sullivan Avatar
    Mike Sullivan

    Wow, that lady is not in touch with real life. Must spend a lot of time watching Fox News and CNN. I take photos in Boston from time to time, nice place to be. I hope they let the man go without confiscating anything. Maybe that lady can buy him a coffee?

  13. Eric Jaakkola Avatar
    Eric Jaakkola

    Not to mention even if he did do all the things she accused him of, no laws were broken.

  14. Karen Danks Avatar
    Karen Danks

    I hate people. Also she can take a picture of him but gets her panties in a wad if he takes pictures of kids? Why is she so special? Seriously just talk to the person with a camera and ask, most photogs are cool about explaing what they’re up too.

    Someone said he might have been dangerous, really? In the middle of a public park during the day? What do you think he’s going to do?

    1. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      “Someone said he might have been dangerous, really? In the middle of a public park during the day? What do you think he’s going to do?”

      Maybe choosing his targets for a possible abduction at some point? In the case of Mr. Updike an utterly incorrect assumption – but how do you know someone is not dangerous or has an evil intent?

      1. Angel Ramirez Avatar
        Angel Ramirez

        You don’t. Just like you don’t know the next time you bucket your seat belt if it’s going to be your last. You have to trust in others around you to not harm you. Paranoia is good, too much yields these situations for sure.

  15. Marc Osborne Jr Avatar
    Marc Osborne Jr

    First off Mr. Updike did everything right. But that Poll is terribly presented though. Very biased, leading options. How about adding: “Just because you know its legal to photograph anyone in public, you make some efforts to not appear creepy.”

  16. Mark Schulz Avatar
    Mark Schulz

    As in photography, it’s all a matter off perspective. If the person who called the cops was in, say perhaps Zimbabwe, & took photos of local kids playing with a homemade soccer ball. Would anyone ,looking at those pictures, express outrage over a stranger photographing children? I think not.

  17. Tj8photo Avatar

    I never take photos of children .. But I think if this woman could spend the time on the USofA gun laws ???.

  18. Flarn Buckholter Avatar
    Flarn Buckholter

    The correct course of action isn’t to post a snarky letter. The correct course of action is to get a lawyer. If she loses her house in a civil lawsuit then 1) she will no longer be in the neighborhood and 2) she won’t have the urge to do stupid things, anymore.

    You must make lefties pay legally every single time when they make a mistake. You cannot have mercy or take prisoners. If she is 80 years old, wheelchair-bound and senile, you should still hammer your point home. Lefties do not care one bit about ruining lives unless that life is their own. She would have gleefully watched you get hauled away, knowing that you weren’t doing anything wrong and would have gotten VTs (vaginal tingles) for months afterwards telling everyone how she’s protecting the community against criminals like you. Don’t take the “moral high road” because you are just encouraging her to do it again now that she’s gotten away scot-free.

    If rational people do NOT start banding together to fight back against the stupids, then they will win.

    1. Rudolf Erdei Avatar
      Rudolf Erdei

      Stupid people already won. I am soooo glad I do not live in the US!

      1. Alan Jones Avatar
        Alan Jones

        We’re glad you don’t live here as well.

        1. mark Avatar

          That wasnt funny the first time you posted it, and it is less so now. “Fuck them because they live in a particular place.” Nice.

          Shut up, jackass.

          1. Alan Jones Avatar
            Alan Jones

            Make me, Mark – make me shut up.

          2. Angel Ramirez Avatar
            Angel Ramirez

            Honestly… I don’t think you even realize that your response seems to be agnostic to who you are truly replying to. The reason why I say that is because your quoted phrase was the one inferred by Rudolf.

            Name calling?!? Shame you resort to that while being anon.

    2. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      LoL … “Lefties”.

      By definition, if one lives in Cambridge MA they are in fact a “leftie”. The nickname for the city is “The People’s Republic of Cambridge”. It is the bastion of Liberal/Progressive thinking in New England.

      Seems to me one leftie got annoyed and objected to another leftie taking photographs.

      Being more of a conservative, I rather enjoy watching one leftie taking a hissy fit against another leftie and then getting a similar in-kind response.

  19. Jarek Niskiewicz Avatar
    Jarek Niskiewicz

    The first thing the photographer should ask the cops for is warrant, if they don’t have one he should have asked what laws are being broken – after that just simple fuck off should do.

    1. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      They don’t need a warrant to ask you what you’re doing. I personally would not have let them have the phone, but maybe I would hang onto the phone and show the photos I was taking just to not be considered confrontational.

      A simple “fuck off” gets you down on the ground and in handcuffs.

      I love Internet tough guys like yourself who are all big-and-bad out here. I’ll bet you would be wetting your pants in a jail cell while being booked for disorderly conduct.

      1. Angel Ramirez Avatar
        Angel Ramirez

        I don’t entirely disagree with either of you.
        You are correct in saying that they didn’t need a warrant to ask away. They can ask till their blue in their face. All you have to ask for truly is if you are being detained. With no evidence of wrong doing and no need to provide identification without being detained, then it would be a fuck off. Of course not literally since egging on an officer with excessively extended powers and a gun is never a good idea but you can always say, “If I’m not detained for wrong doing, I’m going to leave and have a good day”

  20. Jay Beckman Avatar
    Jay Beckman

    I’d be seriously considering a defamation suit.

    1. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      And you would seriously lose, dipshit.

  21. Alexander Michael Boston Avatar
    Alexander Michael Boston

    Reminds me when I was asked by a 250 pound father if I “messed with his kid” playing guitar at a school down the street from my house on a Saturday. “I was pissing off my dad playing guitar loudly so I went to a vacant spot to play. Now I’m pissing off some random child’s dad”. I would have said “idiot/asshole dad” but ya know. He was a really big guy. Who I assumed drops racial slurs from time to time. Just speculating

  22. Itsamee Avatar

    I’m not up to no good, but as a father I understand where this lady was coming from. I’m always out taking pictures, and I often take my 3 year old daughter to the park. We very rarely go out without a camera, but I realize that people these days are a little uneasy and a guy in a park full of children can be a little unnerving, especially with a camera. Clearly he wasn’t doing anything wrong, the woman had time to sit and watch him and take his picture like a creepy stranger, did she not notice he wasn’t taking any photos? I probably would not have called the cops myself, although if I saw someone taking pictures of my daughter without permission (which this guy was NOT doing) I would have my finger on the send button of my phone to call the police when I approached him to ask what was going on. That all being said, knowing how people are these days, and knowing that a camera makes people nervous, I generally put the camera away if other kids show up to play. I guess it just feels like the courteous thing to to do to me. The park should be a place to play and feel safe for everyone, children and parents. I mean, sometimes I don’t even like it when someone I know takes a picture of my daughter. So, I guess the point I’m trying to make is, you might not be a creep but people don’t know you’re not a creep. And approaching a stranger in the park isn’t always the easiest thing to do especially if you think they might be up to no good. Also, why did this require six police officers? It seems like one would have been more than sufficient, and 20 minutes? Seems like it should have been one officer and 10 minutes at most.

    1. Alan Jones Avatar
      Alan Jones

      They don’t know what they’re responding to, so it’s better to have more officers than less.

      1. Angel Ramirez Avatar
        Angel Ramirez

        Oppression. Militarized police. Excessive force.
        1 camera doesn’t = 2 cops let alone 6. I understand the need for the officers to keep themselves safe however a camera is more likely to do them harm only if they themselves were in the wrong. 1 cop, 10 minutes. I agree.

        Oh and teaching our officers in this day and age and photography is not a crime would be pretty relevant as well.

  23. Jason Starr Avatar
    Jason Starr

    This is the reason I’m not comfortable taking photos at my own son’s birthday party when the parents of the other kids have even said it’s OK

  24. Anthony Cottrell Avatar
    Anthony Cottrell

    Yep, almost the exact same thing happened to me in a Zoo, which will remain nameless here in Florida. And the “father” I was acosted by was just as much, if not more, of an asshole.
    Yes, there are alot of dicks in this world, and way too many of them are paranoid…

  25. Alan Jones Avatar
    Alan Jones

    “Suggestion: the next time you suspect someone is up to no good, perhaps you should say hello, speak to them first and, if still anxious, ask what they are taking pictures of. That’s what people do in a neighborhood park: talk to each other. ”

    Um, yeah … and then that person gets up and attacks you because they are in fact crazy.

    That woman did the right thing; it’s too bad this guy lives in a Utopian fantasy where everone is nice and respectful to each other.

    1. Angel Ramirez Avatar
      Angel Ramirez

      This woman did not do a right or wrong thing from this little article. We can’t be certain that she did in fact accuse him of anything ill. If she did… then yes, she is entirely in the wrong and you would be too. This country is founded on individual freedom and if he chooses to photograph on public lands, he is free to. If she doesn’t like it, get your kids out or talk to the person you feel is aggressing against you. If you feel that you would be in danger by talking to a person with a camera, then get support of others around you. Why are you depending on the government to do your work for you? As much as I loath the site, PINAC is a great resource as to why you and this lady are wrong for leaning on the government so much.

  26. Alan Jones Avatar
    Alan Jones

    Before I ever take photos of children – in a park or otherwise – I always first approach the adult(s) with the children, introduce myself and give them a business card if they want one. I then tell them I will be taking photographs of the playground or area where the children are.

    If I saw some guy on a bench by himself taking photos of children – yeah, I’d call the police as well. You just never know.

  27. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Avatar
    Gen. Jack D. Ripper

    I don’t quite see what people think they are accomplishing by preventing photography. If some person has evil designs, I’m not sure having photos is a critical part of it. If some guy, creepy or not, has photos of my kid, so what? Particularly a one-shot deal. If I see the same guy repeatedly, then I might become concerned—not about the photos, but whether he has plans beyond them.

    This seems a good example of how people erroneously assess risk. They worry excessively about unlikely things and ignore much more likely risks.

  28. Angel Ramirez Avatar
    Angel Ramirez

    So many different ironic aspects. My favorite wasn’t the obvious of the accuser having an unwanted photo of the photographer but the one of social responsibility. The photographer being social and involved with his neighborhood and the accuser not even bothering to go talk to the person they were paranoid about.

    Oh and to Jarek, there are paranoid idiots everywhere and throughout history. That’s called nature. I would use the overused cliche of “Human Nature” but paranoia is not human exclusive. That being said, It’s what a people do with it that makes a society great. In the USA, the expected response is to address it in person and not depend on the government to do things for us.

    Unfortunately for us, our society has been changing since the US great depression but we still have some remnants that make our country substantially better than the majority on this little planet of ours.

    Another little bit of irony beginning with Jarek’s negative post of the United States, all posters prefer to stay anonymous and all Pro US aren’t. We don’t fear free speech in our country, shame that also is more of an exclusive thing on our little planet.

  29. ron ronaldson Avatar
    ron ronaldson

    It’s women. They’re the scum of the earth.

  30. Sarah Avatar

    He’s still a creep. Better safe than sorry when it comes to pedos.