CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cell Phone Cameras and Crime Reporting

One morning last month, a 28-year-old woman was struggling up the stairs at the Dyckman Street elevated station on her way to work. Normally, she would hold her skirt around her legs, but that day she was juggling a cup of coffee, a gym bag and her purse.

She sensed the presence of someone too close to her on the stairs. She turned and saw a man peering into his cellphone. A passer-by confirmed her suspicion: The man had taken photographs under her skirt.

“I said I had to do something,” the woman said on Thursday. “Since he is taking pictures of me, I am going to take pictures of him.”

She said she followed the man onto the southbound No. 1 train, walked through several cars and found him on a seat. She prepared her cellphone camera. He looked at her and mumbled something. “And I told him ‘smile’ because I am going to the police,” she said.

he took a picture, e-mailed it to the police and filed a report. On Tuesday, an officer at the 110th Street subway station at Central Park West approached a man matching the photograph, the police said. According to the police, the man, identified as Aaron Olivieri, 36, told the officer, “I hope I am not the person you are looking for.” Then he said he knew why he was being stopped: because a woman on a train had taken his picture and accused him of a crime.

Mr. Olivieri was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of unlawful surveillance, attempted sexual abuse and harassment, a criminal complaint said. A man who answered the phone at his apartment referred calls to Mr. Olivieri’s lawyer, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

On crowded subways and streets, women have long been targets of deliberate jostling, groping, obscene photography and indecent exposure. In 2006, a police sting netted 13 men charged with groping or flashing, and other men have been arrested in recent years after being identified by cellphone pictures. One Web site,, encourages people to share their stories and cellphone photographs. “Send us pics of street harassers!” the Web site says.

On Sept. 9, the police started tapping into the ubiquitous technology by inviting people who witness crimes to take pictures with their cellphone cameras, if safety permits, and to send them along when they make 911 calls.

Read article here. [Brooks Holland]

Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, News | Permalink

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