suspicious-man-at-parkWhat would you do if someone pulled out a camera and began photographing your child at the park? It’s not illegal to photograph people in public spaces. If some person decided to pull out their camera phone and start snapping photos of your child – would you be uncomfortable with it? My answer is “yes.” I would definitely be uncomfortable with that. My discomfort would increase exponentially if it were a man. I’m not saying it’s right – I’m just saying it’s a fact.

This week, Oregon mom Elizabeth McMenamin confronted a man at a park who was photographing her daughter playing in a fountain:

“I just saw this guy taking pictures of me, and then Genevieve, and then these two other boys that were sitting by us. I saw the guy come back over and he starting taking pictures, and then he started taking pictures of her little one and she didn’t have clothes on,” said Katie Pointer. 

McMenamin relied on her maternal instincts to know something wasn’t right. A KATU photographer was in the park shooting video of people cooling off in the fountain. McMenamin asked him to tag along while she confronted the man.

McMenamin approached the man and grabbed his phone. She found a picture of her in her swimsuit and her child – as well as several other photos of children at the park. She called the police. They showed up and questioned the man but did not arrest him, because he wasn’t doing anything illegal:

Photographs taken in public spaces, like a park on a hot day, are protected as free speech by the First Amendment. It’s the same law that allows KATU News to shoot video of our reporters in public places, and the same law that allows us to shoot video of other people in public places without asking first.

Basically – if you are a single man at a child’s park, you are already stranger-danger. Add the extra element of a camera phone full of photos – and even if it’s the most innocent thing in the world you are now a pedophile according to probably every parent in the vicinity. I’m not saying it’s right – I’m just pointing out that this is where we are as a society.

There was an older man wandering alone in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble for about 45 minutes when I was there with my son last week. I was giving him the side-eye the whole time. I never would have thought twice about it if it were a woman – I would have just assumed she was a grandma looking for books. What is wrong with me? Everyone isn’t a predator. How did this happen?

Clearly, someone taking photos is completely different than someone just walking around a bookstore. If some dude was taking pictures of my child in public, I would definitely confront him or leave. I’m just not cool with that – legal or not. I may be succumbing to stranger-danger paranoia, but oh well.

(photo: Matthew Cole/ Shutterstock)