A man reported to be taking photos at a Bay of Plenty water reserve has sparked a police reminder, about the rights of public when it comes to photography in public spaces.
One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she observed a man she believes to be around 60 years old taking photos for more than an hour at the reserve.
“I noticed a skinny, pale, grey-haired man wearing faded half-blue, half-pink shorts and a plaid shirt taking photos with his phone.
“He was taking photos of three girls and these were not plain photos. He was perfecting the image and capturing the shots with great intent,” says the woman.
“At one stage, zooming in on people while they were bending down and he looked as if he knew what he was doing.”
She says his behaviour made her uncomfortable.
“After following him to another area of the reserve, he proceeded to also take photos of young boys.
“I mentioned it to someone in the area and she said I should give him the benefit of the doubt. She thought he may have been taking photos of his grandchildren or of his children.”
The woman doesn’t believe he was there for a purpose.
“I waited for all of the kids to leave and he did not come back to collect a child. I felt sick that I didn’t approach him or do anything about what was happening.
“The whole thing has taught me to be a lot more observant. There were so many people in the area who didn’t even see it happening.
“I think people need to be more aware this is going on in broad daylight and look out for people who may be acting strangely while taking photos in public.”
She says the incident was reported to police.
Mount Maunganui community Constable Kurt Waugh says the incident highlights a need for people to understand their rights and outlines what they should do in a similar situation.
“It’s not illegal to take photos in public, but it is if it’s inappropriate.
“We’ve had a few cases where photographers have claimed photos they are taking in public spaces are consensual and I’ve found the best advice is to ask someone who might be doing the same, to leave.
“If they don’t, if you’re really worried, feel uncomfortable or upset about someone taking photos, especially if they are of someone wearing swimwear, then call police.
“Some people may get angry if you approach them and calling us may save you from becoming part an unwanted confrontation.
“We are more than happy to come out, talk to them, see what they are doing and find out who they are.
“If it’s at an event, another option is to talk to the manager or the organisers, and get them to ask the person to leave,” says Kurt.
“It might turn out to be innocent or it might not. We usually find if someone is innocent they are more than happy to hand their device over and actually show us what they have been taking photos of.
“If someone starts to get reluctant, or doesn’t want to show us the photos or does show is photos and they are of people in their swimwear then that is when we would be asking some serious questions.”