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#1 of 63 Old 09-26-2009, 09:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We were at a harvest festival in a nearby small town today. My sister was there performing a dance with her school. Halfway through the performance, my dad pointed out a totally creepy older guy with a big camera. He had a SERIOUS telephoto lens. He was filthy, smoking, and wearing ripped clothing and did NOT look like he was working for a newspaper or anything like that. My dad said that he didn't think much of him until he tried to take a picture of my DS with whom my father was playing. (My dad put himself in between the guy and DS so he wouldn't be able to get a clear shot and then picked him up and moved.)

After that, my dad noticed that the guy was ONLY photographing little kids. He moved when he realized my dad was scoping him out. Then I saw him again and I stared him down for awhile and he moved again. My dad went and found a cop and when the cops came down to the stage area, the guy high-tailed it out of there. The cops told my dad that they would just follow the creeper around until he left.

I really wanted to walk up to the guy and start talking cameras, then ask to see his, check some pictures and take the memory card. I didn't, of course, but I still sort of wish that I had. I am still REALLY angry about it and feel like my privacy and my child's privacy have been violated.

Any experiences like this? What'd you do? What would you have done?

We left as soon as my sister was done.
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#2 of 63 Old 09-26-2009, 09:34 PM
 
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Well... the guy may or may not have a child in the festival, he may or may not be working on an independent project, he may or may not be doing any one of a million innocent things, or he may not be innocent. I probably would have asked him NOT to take pics of my kid, but then again im bold and mouthy like that. I wouldnt take his memory card, that would be theft and I dont have time for problems like that, i dont have time to engage him in conversation etc, just a polite, 'please dont photo my kid' thanks.
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#3 of 63 Old 09-26-2009, 09:36 PM
 
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I think you did everything you could. You listened to your gut that something was off. You distanced yourself and then left ASAP. You reported suspicious behavior to the police.

The man was not breaking any laws photographing people performing in public (or playing in public). Yes, he may have been creepy, but he was not breaking any laws.

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#4 of 63 Old 09-26-2009, 11:31 PM
 
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It doesn't bother me when people take pictures of my DD. I read here that a lot of parents are bothered, and I wonder why?

Anyway, wearing dirty torn clothing and smoking a cigarette, that could be my DH, lol. He doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to appearances. He's a really nice person, though.
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#5 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 12:06 AM
 
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I wouldn't have been bothered by it other than not liking pictures taken of me. I would have avoided the man but I wouldn't have involved the police.

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#6 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 12:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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He wasn't with anyone there, everyone convened to talk about it. He was very very weird. It wasn't that he was dirty necessarily, or the smoking (I mean, I smoked for years before DS) but the fact that he was acting creepy and was literally FILTHY. He was too close to the kids but always away from the adults, he was using a telephoto from only 10 feet away from the stage. Anytime someone made eye-contact with him when he would disappear for a bit into the crowd and then show back up. When the cops came down, you should have seen him... he took one look and them and walked as fast as he could without running and disappeared into a sea of people.

I realize that there's nothing that I could have done... I understand that it wasn't illegal... what I'm saying is that I feel so vulnerable now. He has pictures of MY CHILD and who knows why he wanted them.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist and I don't think the worst of people so something has to be overtly wrong to raise my heckles and this was really wrong. Every other parent there was alarmed and many left as a result.
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#7 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:27 AM
 
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I would've been creeped out too, and like the idea of politely but firmly asking him to not take pictures of your child.
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#8 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:36 AM
 
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My thoughts are always this: if a pedophile is going to take pictures of a child, chances are high no one would ever notice. Because that man would be there to blend in, and be unnoticed.

So, to me, a man that looks like he's suspiciously taking photos ... he's probably innocent.

It's just a theory of mine. I mean, if I were a creepy person (not that I am), then that would be the way I'd go - blend in completely so that no one would notice me taking photos of little kids. The LAST thing I'd want to do is stand out and get caught.

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#9 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My thoughts are always this: if a pedophile is going to take pictures of a child, chances are high no one would ever notice. Because that man would be there to blend in, and be unnoticed.

So, to me, a man that looks like he's suspiciously taking photos ... he's probably innocent.

It's just a theory of mine. I mean, if I were a creepy person (not that I am), then that would be the way I'd go - blend in completely so that no one would notice me taking photos of little kids. The LAST thing I'd want to do is stand out and get caught.
This is somewhat comforting. Thank you! I am so shaken by the situation... I've never yet felt that mama-bear instinct as strongly as I did today.
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#10 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:11 AM
 
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Just to voice a dissenting opinion... if your mama-bear instinct was firing up, listen to it. I'd rather overreact and be wrong 99% of the time than risk underreacting the 1% of the time that really counts. There was a creepy guy here (near Seattle) who used to go to public festivals where he believed kids would be. He would photograph them and post the pictures to his website. He moved to CA a while back, and I know he's met with resistance in a few different areas, but since he's not technically breaking the law, there isn't a whole lot anyone can do about it. I have no idea where he might be now. But you'd better believe I'd be holding my DD's hand and not letting her out of my sight if I thought for a second that someone like that guy was photographing her. (And I'm a professional photog who sometimes brings a big camera to events... but I don't aim it at anyone except my own child unless I've been hired to do so! )

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#11 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:15 AM
 
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wow that is very creepy.
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#12 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:47 AM
 
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Thank you for being so proactive and making sure the police knew. I, too, believe that your spidey senses were telling you something true. I once called the police on someone who we walked past when going home. He was standing across the street from a school with a huge telephoto lens, taking photos of a PE class that was in a field playing soccer. He was very far away from that class, so he definitely didn't seem legit, ya know? The police thanked me and assured me they would check it out. I told them that I felt silly calling, but they said no, it was a good thing.
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#13 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:59 AM
 
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I would have marched right up to him and started taking pictures of him with my own camera, following him to his car, and taking a pic of his car's license plate!

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#14 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 03:47 AM
 
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I would feel creeped out too.. and more than a bit irritated

Unfortunetely though, like another pp mentioned, it isn't illegal to snap photos in public. There was a guy at a water fountain taking pictures of all of the kids once (in there swimsuits) that freaked us out. We made our girls come over, wrap up in towels and have a snack until he wandered off.. I think he noticed all of the parents glaring at him, and felt intimidated enough to leave.

All in all, even though it's weird, there are no laws against this sort of thing. There was a guy in Portland (where we just moved from) who actually had a website with ratings of the photographed kids he displayed The police were involved, but had nothing on him. He was free to be perverted- which he was very open about. I stopped taking my kids to the parks and fountains for a while until we found places that he didn't frequent (via websites).

It's sad, and lame, but freaks are out there.. and the law is on their side as long as there aren't 'victims'

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#15 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 05:59 AM
 
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It amazes me how people on this message board are always so quick to dismiss a person's intuitive feelings or write off a creepy situation as "no big deal". The OP was right to be concerned and suspicious. It seems that if the guy had pure motives then he would NOT have ran away EVERY time he noticed someone watching him. That alone says a lot.

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The man was not breaking any laws photographing people performing in public (or playing in public). Yes, he may have been creepy, but he was not breaking any laws.
The OP clearly said that the guy was taking pictures ONLY of little kids around them - NOT the kids in the performance.

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It doesn't bother me when people take pictures of my DD. I read here that a lot of parents are bothered, and I wonder why?
A strange, suspicious acting guy is taking pictures of her kid without her permission. And then when she attempts to approach him he takes off along with pictures of her son. And this is something that should not bother her? He has no business taking pictures of her son without her knowledge and permission. She does not know that person, yet she is supposed to be comfortable with him being in possession of pictures of her son? That is creepy.


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Anyway, wearing dirty torn clothing and smoking a cigarette, that could be my DH, lol. He doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to appearances. He's a really nice person, though.
So you're husband has the same type of appearance. Okay. Would your husband also be at an event by himself taking pictures ONLY of little kids and running away from anyone who tries to approach him?

It is not just the guy's clothes. It is not just about him taking pictures. It is ALL of those things taken into account along with his suspicious actions and how he did not want to be approached.

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#16 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 06:09 AM
 
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It would have creeped me out too...

And I say this as the wife who handed my husband our HUGE digital cannon with a 400mm telephoto as he sat on the bench on the school playground..and took our youngest to the bathroom.

He typically works all day... most everyone knows me... but to see the shaved head of a 6-3" with a bunch of young kiddos...who they do not recognize.

He was pissed.. laughing pissed.. but pissed all the same for putting him in that position.
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#17 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 07:32 AM
 
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OP i am really glad you acted on your instinct. its a trait i totally encourage in my dd. she picks up wierd vibes totally.

however i am totally with sailor on this. no pedofile would ever appear so inconspicuous. he probably was an oddball who has been probably hounded by the police. who probably enjoys taking pictures of young children as an art form. and of course not fiting in the norm makes him stick out even more. i would imagine he has some sort of social issue that he is not able to take care of personal hygiene.

however if i was in your shoes and i felt that creeped out, i would absolutely do what you did.

the thing is - both my dd and i are good at picking up 'creepiness'. we dont let their appearance fool us. sometimes we have been creeped out by suave well dressed men, or by ordinary people who dont stick out - yet something is there. the reason i listen to those instincts is coz we live in a high pedofile area. their transitional housing is just 8 blocks from where we are. yet not once has a person like that creeped us out. anyone like that here has been mainly suffering from mental illness.

the point i am trying to make here is that - sometimes our instincts can be wrong. sometimes our instincts rise out of our fear and we have to be careful about that. it shows our prejudice. i realise for myself how prejudiced i really am. so i am really careful to make sure i am acting out of my true gut feelings and not fear.

we as women dont realise it, but esp. old men in this country dont have the freedom to enjoy children as we do. men in general. even just passing a comment gets dirty looks.

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#18 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 07:41 AM
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Personally I wouldn't have a problem with someone just taking pictures in public, much preferable for that than a creep to pull it out right there, but the rest is what sounds odd. Such as him running off when someone would make eye-contact. His behavior sounds odd enough without the camera.

If your spidey-senses were tingling, it was probably with good reason. If he looked legit and wasn't fidgety and taking pictures, you might not have felt the same way. But even without the camera, this guy sounds creepy.
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#19 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 08:36 AM
 
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however i am totally with sailor on this. no pedofile would ever appear so inconspicuous. he probably was an oddball who has been probably hounded by the police. who probably enjoys taking pictures of young children as an art form. and of course not fiting in the norm makes him stick out even more. i would imagine he has some sort of social issue that he is not able to take care of personal hygiene.

.
No pedophile would ever???? That's a very very generalized statement. Have you done a case study of every pedophile ever? I'm sure there've been plenty who have been inconspicuous, even if it's not the norm. Honestly, it seems more unlikely that he just has some social issue and likes to take photos of children as an art form than that he's a pedophile.

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#20 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 08:42 AM
 
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Having worked for a few newspapers, I've seen many newspaper photographers who match that description. I wouldn't assume he wasn't taking photos for a newspaper.

However, if he were, he'd be wanting names of the kids whose pictures he took for the newspaper.
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#21 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 09:12 AM
 
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Since your instincts alerted you that something was not right, I think you took most of the steps you could in the situation. In a non-performance situation, I think you can also tell someone that you don't want photos or film taken of you or your child. I don't think there's much more you can do though if it's a public performance.

If your instincts are only alerted by poor dress or messy hair or questionable hygiene, I suggest you reconsider. A lot of pedophiles blend into the crowd. They look like dads and friendly neighbours and teachers and scoutmasters - because they are. It's quite possible that one of the "nice-looking" guys taking photos that day was doing it for not-nice reasons.

Elsethread, someone recommended Gavin deBecker's book, Protecting the Gift, about protecting children and teaching them safety - in part by listening to instinct but also by being educated about identifying threats and risks and evaluating them. It's a good read. Instincts are useful, but they need to be informed.
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#22 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 09:39 AM
 
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No pedophile would ever???? That's a very very generalized statement. Have you done a case study of every pedophile ever? I'm sure there've been plenty who have been inconspicuous, even if it's not the norm. Honestly, it seems more unlikely that he just has some social issue and likes to take photos of children as an art form than that he's a pedophile.
Pedophiles are not known for their intelligience. There are many instances of peds that sit outside schools, just watching, quite conspicuously I might add. So the OP's scenario doesn't surprise me at all, they do all types of stupid things. They count on people questioning their senses about situations.

OP, you were probably dead on about that guy. I like one of the PP ideas about taking picturesd of HIM but I'm kind of bold like that. I think in a situation like that, a few parents could have approached him and just asked him what he was doing there. I think we should all take our gut feelings very seriously with stuff like this, the price is just way too high not too.

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#23 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 10:16 AM
 
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It was awful and just thinking about it terrifies me all over again. We were at the aviary in our city, my dh, ds and dd. We walked into an open area where the birds fly and walk around and I noticed a man with his camera. He was holding it in a way to be stealth (down by his knees) he was watching the kids. As soon as my dd walked up he was only watching her. This sent off red flags for me. He zoned in on her. He still had his camera (a small one) down by his knees, he was sitting on a bleacher type seat so this put the camera at a perfect level for my (at the time) 3yo dd. I went over to my dh and asked him if we could leave. We walked out of that area and the man followed us. I thought, "Am I imagining this?" Eventually I told my dh and he noticed it too. We were on our way out and the man was right behind us. Dh freaked at this point, walked up to him, and asked him albeit in a threatening tone what his problem was. The guy answered him with a very heavy accent that he "didn't have a problem." I was at the car loading the kids, this man still watching dramatically turns his back to us as if to say, "OK, I won't get your lic plate" We were pulled into the spot with the front of the car towards him. This sealed his fate (as far as we were concerned) dh called 911. They sent out an officer and dh demanded they go through his camera. They would not let dh near him (sensing his anger, I assume) and admitted that when they approached the man he was huddling in a corner "looking through his pictures" or more likely deleting photos. They said he spoke little English and they couldn't do anything to him for "just following" us. To this day I am still creeped out that he was going to get our lic plate number.
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#24 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 12:40 PM
 
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It was awful and just thinking about it terrifies me all over again. We were at the aviary in our city, my dh, ds and dd. We walked into an open area where the birds fly and walk around and I noticed a man with his camera. He was holding it in a way to be stealth (down by his knees) he was watching the kids. As soon as my dd walked up he was only watching her. This sent off red flags for me. He zoned in on her. He still had his camera (a small one) down by his knees, he was sitting on a bleacher type seat so this put the camera at a perfect level for my (at the time) 3yo dd. I went over to my dh and asked him if we could leave. We walked out of that area and the man followed us. I thought, "Am I imagining this?" Eventually I told my dh and he noticed it too. We were on our way out and the man was right behind us. Dh freaked at this point, walked up to him, and asked him albeit in a threatening tone what his problem was. The guy answered him with a very heavy accent that he "didn't have a problem." I was at the car loading the kids, this man still watching dramatically turns his back to us as if to say, "OK, I won't get your lic plate" We were pulled into the spot with the front of the car towards him. This sealed his fate (as far as we were concerned) dh called 911. They sent out an officer and dh demanded they go through his camera. They would not let dh near him (sensing his anger, I assume) and admitted that when they approached the man he was huddling in a corner "looking through his pictures" or more likely deleting photos. They said he spoke little English and they couldn't do anything to him for "just following" us. To this day I am still creeped out that he was going to get our lic plate number.
Wow, that's a really creepy story. I think you and the OP definitely did the right things. We should never ignore our instincts, even if they are wrong sometimes. As another PP said, better that you be right the 1% of the time it matters than to ignore your instincts.
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#25 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:14 PM
 
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The OP clearly said that the guy was taking pictures ONLY of little kids around them - NOT the kids in the performance.
I know she did. I also know she was creeped out and frightened.

But truly, the only way anyone can know exactly what he was taking pictures of is by looking at his camera. I'm not saying the OP is lying... I'm saying that when you are scared, you tend to interpret events to fit in with the fear in your head.

When our new hispanic neighbors moved in a year ago, half the neighborhood was convinced they were terrorists planning to bomb the refineries about a mile from where we live. They had tons of proof and tons of "creepy feelings." After all, the people in the house were never seen, and the man only went out at night, and they were oh so quiet. Now, a year later, Jose and his family are included in block parties, and he makes the best margueritas.

The man two houses down is "creepy," according to the neighbors. He has no family and walks slowly. He pauses to watch the kids play and never says anything. He's always dirty, and he walks through the neighborhood every day. Oh, and he's only looking at the girls. The younger girls, according to the neighbors. I talked to him a bit, he has a stutter and is very shy, he works for a mechanic and is trying to fix up his car so that he can drive to work instead of walk each day. He seemed perfectly fine to me, maybe a little slow, but certainly not deserving of the neighbors' isolating and cruel opinions of him.

I work with people with mental illness. I can't tell you how much our folks are subject to the "creepy" feelings of others. 99% of the time those creepy, inaccurate feelings are painful to others. 99 people get hurt or run off or marginalized for every 1 you might be right about. I don't think that's okay.

There just aren't that many pedophiles, criminals, or dangerous people out there. There just aren't. And if, perchance, there was one taking pictures of my child, I would rather err on the side that my "creepy" feelings are more the result of my cultural immersion than hurt someone.
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#26 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:24 PM
 
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To the OP, that man would have looked suspicious to me also! It would have creeped out, especially the suspicious way he was not making eye contact and moving away. You'd think if he was a reporter or a newspaper photographer he would gladly say so and talk to people when he started getting strange looks.

On the other hand, I always remind myself that as long as someone taking random pictures doesn't know where my DD lives, her name, or any other personal info...they really can't do much harm with a picture of her fully clothed doing whatever. Even if they do something nasty with it, it most likely won't effect my DD in any way and we'll never know about it, you know? Of course I would prefer no man ever think nasty thoughts about me or my kids, or look at any pictures in dirty ways, but in the long run they are just thoughts or just images, if that makes sense.

Now if the same man was showing up all over the place, seen more than once lurking around, stalking, and taking pictures...that would be a cause for extreme concern in my mind because it shows a different level of personal obsession...

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#27 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:40 PM
 
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I read The Gift of Fear, and I couldn't help thinking that the "always go with your gut and assume that someone who seems creepy to YOU is evil" advice was pretty flawed. A lot of the time the people who give others "creepy feelings" are probably just Other. Other race, other nationality, perhaps autistic or developmentally disabled. I felt the book gave a huge pass to -isms of all kinds. In fact it probably encourages them.

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#28 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 01:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
I work with people with mental illness. I can't tell you how much our folks are subject to the "creepy" feelings of others. 99% of the time those creepy, inaccurate feelings are painful to others. 99 people get hurt or run off or marginalized for every 1 you might be right about. I don't think that's okay.

There just aren't that many pedophiles, criminals, or dangerous people out there. There just aren't. And if, perchance, there was one taking pictures of my child, I would rather err on the side that my "creepy" feelings are more the result of my cultural immersion than hurt someone.
I understand what you're saying here. But I also believe you can err too far in the other direction and ignore instincts that should be listened to. And when it comes to my children, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Truly, my feelings on the issue have changed since I had kids--I put myself in many more marginal situations than I ever would when my kids are with me.

It's sad about your neighbors, but YOU personally didn't have any creepy feelings about them, correct? So it was right for you to not distance yourself. Presumably there have been some instances in your life when you felt better when you got away from a particular place or person, so you still trust your own instincts. Since none of us were at the scene where the OP was, I think it's best to believe that she interpreted the situation to the best of her ability.

Not to mention the fact that what the man did was disrespectful, if not actually illegal. There have been many times when I would have loved to take a picture of a stranger, but I just don't without permission. I don't think it's a polite thing to do. It's one thing to have strangers in the background of your photographs (people in public have to expect that), but for someone to take a photo with my child as the focus? Please, ASK first. If you can't summon that common courtesy, perhaps you shouldn't be taking photos in the first place.
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#29 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by noobmom View Post
It's sad about your neighbors, but YOU personally didn't have any creepy feelings about them, correct? So it was right for you to not distance yourself.
Part of what I want to say is precisely that our instincts can't be trusted. Our instincts will tell us that anyone who is different from us is creepy. Its just how the human brain works. And when you live in a culture that tends to isolate people who are different (e.g. institutionalization, self-contained classrooms, homeless shelters for the homeless, etc) we have even less exposure to diverse populations. Its only natural that we have creepy feelings about strange people.

I often have creepy feelings. I recently hired an employee with a bald head and a wandering eye. If I met him on the street, I would have been creeped out, probably, and then I would have tried to work through those feelings to see if there was any validity to them, rather than just trusting my initial instinct.

Her creepy feelings were not wrong. We all have them. What's wrong is assuming they have very much to say about the nature of another human being. There's been quite a bit of sociological research that demonstrates just how bad people are at guessing whether a person is trustworthy or not, or even if their smile is real or fake. We're terrible at it. Our instincts don't give us much to go on. I'll bet I wouldn't have been creeped out by Madoff, for example. I probably would have trusted him. I just saw a picture of Roman Polanski in the New York Times today, and I felt an attraction, not a creepy feeling. He looks kind of noble to me. His smile probably won over millions.
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#30 of 63 Old 09-27-2009, 02:29 PM
 
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Whenever I feel uneasy about something, I try to figure out just exactly I'm afraid of? But I can't for the life of me see what there is to fear from a stranger taking a picture of my child playing in the park?

Hundreds of families I don't know have my several pics of my son in his school yearbook. His picture has been in the newspaper (he was playing in a water fountain at an outdoor concert). He was interviewed for our local news last year at the pumpkin patch. I have no more control of those images than I do of one snapped by a guy in a park.

If you suspect that the photographer was going to try to find out where you live to stalk you and your kids, that fear I understand. But the simple act of taking a picture in a public place, i just don't get.
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