Voyeurism of the “peeping Tom” variety or a hidden camera has been around for years, but the boom of cell phones has made it easier than ever for unsuspecting people to become victims of “upskirting,” law enforcement and legal professionals said.
West Chester Police are continuing to investigate a report by two women last month that a person was taking pictures or video under their clothes while they shopped at Target in the Voice of America shopping center.
This week, Dennis James Schiavone Jr., a former sheriff’s deputy who was convicted in 2003 of a sex crime with a teen, was charged with attempted voyeurism for allegedly using a shopping cart, a cell phone and an Apple Watch to “upskirt” two women at the Lemon Twp. Kroger.
“Mr. Schiavone pushed his cart with the cell phone up to the two women in an attempt to film up their dresses,” according to the summons.
Schiavone, 43, of Trenton, is scheduled to be in Middletown Municipal Court later this month. The case is not related to the one still under investigation in West Chester Twp., according to law enforcement.
Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office said the 23-year-old woman who told deputies she observed a balding man push a shopping cart very close to her leg and saw a cell phone atop a sack of potatoes with its lens up “did an excellent job” in reporting the incident.
“She was observant, talked to the other woman when she saw what was happening, and waited for the deputies,” Dwyer said.
“Like with all crimes, people have to be observant and aware of their surroundings,” Dwyer said, adding that the proliferation of cell phones has people more complacent to what they may be used for.
Decades ago, a photographer rigged a camera to take pictures through a hole in the changing area of his studio, Dwyer said. A pretty elaborate set up that now can be achieved by anyone with a cell phone in their hand.
“Everyone has a phone and people are used to people looking at their phones. They are not thinking anyone would do anything like (voyeurism),” Dwyer said.
It likely happens more often than people or law enforcement realize, he said and cautioned people to be especially observant in large crowds where it is not unusual for people to be standing close to one another.
“It only takes a few seconds,” Dwyer said. “If something doesn’t feel right, walk away” and call law enforcement, he said.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said voyeurism only rises to the level of a fifth-degree felony if the victim is a minor.
The law has three levels misdemeanor voyeurism, Gmoser said.
The first is the “peeping Tom” version, where a person is spying on or eavesdropping on a victim for sexual gratification, which is a third-degree misdemeanor.
The second is to trespass and video tape or photograph a person in the state of nudity, a second-degree misdemeanor, he said.
The last includes “upskirting.” It is a first-degree misdemeanor to tape or photograph someone through their clothing or under their clothing with the purpose of viewing the body or undergarments, according to Gmoser.
Gmoser said he is surprised the law has not been changed to make repeat offenses higher degrees of charges because offenders tend not to stop their behavior