SCARBOROUGH, Maine — A man who Scarborough police believe used a shoe camera to look up women’s skirts in Walmart last month is a rare example of surveillance equipment being used for peeping in Maine, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
While Maine has seen a number of violation-of-privacy allegations, the police term for such activity, and arrests since 2000, few involved spy gadgets such as the one police believe were employed in the incident. Cases of privacy invasion in Maine have been largely low-tech even as digital recording devices have become smaller and easier to conceal.
A number of Maine men have been caught peeking through windows, under bathroom stall doors and up from the bowels of outhouses over the past 12 years, but secret camera cases remain uncommon in Maine.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said that while “you occasionally see stories around the country of this activity,” crimes like the one being alleged in Scarborough are “very rare” in this state.
Scarborough police are asking for the public’s help in locating the man, described as white with no hair on his head, after several women at the Walmart on July 16 reported his suspicious activity.
“The reason he was caught doing it was that he was standing really close to the women, and one woman noticed him placing his foot between her feet, and she looked down and noticed the pinhole on his shoe,” said Scarborough crime analyst Jamie Higgins Tuesday. “The big thing to remember is, if someone’s making you uncomfortable, pay attention to that. One woman did say he was standing really close to her and making her uncomfortable, but she didn’t really know what he was doing.”
Higgins said her department has gotten a few tips from the public about the potential identity of the man in question, but none have panned out thus far.
Similar cases of surveillance equipment being used in this way are few and far between in Maine’s recent history. Even fewer involved spying on strangers, with most victims being known associates of the perpetrators.
In 2010, Daniel Poulin, a 44-year-old man from Islesboro, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for rigging a sophisticated pinhole camera system to spy on his girlfriend’s teenage daughter in her bedroom over several years. Also in 2010, 43-year-old Frank Bertrand Jr. of Rockland was sentenced to spend five months behind bars for setting up a small remote-controlled video camera in the South Thomaston bedroom of his girlfriend’s 13-year-old daughter.
In 2007, the owner of the Munroe Inn in Auburn, Clint Zimmerman, was fined $1,500 and ordered to pay $127 in restitution to a customer after she discovered a tiny camera installed in the alarm clock in her room. Zimmerman at the time said he placed the device there to catch an employee he suspected of stealing.
In July of 2004, a Rockland man, 33-year-old Lance Merritt, was arrested after police at the North Atlantic Blues Festival allegedly observed him using his cellphone camera to snap pictures under women’s skirts, and in 2001, the former manager of the York Beach Fun-o-rama arcade pleaded guilty to videotaping employees using the bathroom through a peephole.
Some other cases with Maine ties since 2000 have involved individuals using less sophisticated means to invade women’s privacy. Perhaps the best known was that of Gary Moody of Pittston, who was 49 in 2009 when he was arrested for the second time for hiding out in the sewage of an outhouse.