Pedophile or Street Photographer? Police on Lookout for Man Photographing Kids


A couple of days ago we ran across this strange article online. Very short on details, what we know is that a man was seen taking photos of children in a suburb of Toronto a few days ago, and is now being sought after by police.

The story was reported by Toronto’s CityNews, and the strange thing about it is that, given the lack of details, it could be describing a pedophile who the residents of Toronto would do well to be wary of, or simply a street photography enthusiast.

CityNews got a chance to sit down with a couple of Toronto residents, including a woman whose child the mystery man photographed, and get their take on the matter:

The article — which describes the man as “white, five-feet-11-inches to six-feet-one-inch tall with a medium build… wearing beige pants and a green shirt and carrying a brown shoulder bag.” — says simply that the man was “seen taking photos of children in the city’s east end,” and that he “panicked… packed up his camera and left,” once bystanders noticed him taking photos.

Maybe it’s a misunderstanding and maybe it’s not, but residents in the area seem to have their mind made up: “This person won’t last in the area very long,” a man tells CityNews. “We do not tolerate that kind of activity at all.”

(via CityNews)

Image credit: Toronto Police Services – Police Constable Tracy Vernon’s Police Interceptor from 31 Division (2) by antefixus21

Thanks for sending in the tip, Neil!

  • harumph

    Stop trying to make “street tog” happen.

  • aman

    What the hell is a street tog. Lame.

  • Jason

    What’s a street tog? :)

  • gonz

    Guilty until proven innocent.

  • Eric Lefebvre

    They don’t tolerate the lawful exercise of civil rights?

    Photographing people in a public place isn’t illegal, not even children. Once people would have noticed me, I would have handed out some business cards and explained my project but even that’s not required.

    I understand the need to protect your children, I have a 2 year old, but the man, as far as I know, wasn’t doing anything illegal.

  • Das

    Guilty of what exactly? even if he is a pedo he still has the same rights until he actually does something illegal.

  • Das

    unless he is a known pedo he would not be allowed around kids but we cant assume someone is a pedo or a terrorist based on what they are taking pictures of.

  • bob cooley

    I understand the “civil rights” argument, but it’s also about common sense.

    I was a full-time photojournalist for about 20 years before moving into more commercial work, and I shot hundreds of kids playing, working, etc. etc. usually without their knowledge beforehand (to capture truly candid moments for feature/enterprise images) – but in almost every case I found out who their parents were afterwards (often by asking the child, or by knocking on the front door if it was around their home), let the parents knew who I was, gave them a card, etc.

    It’s understandable that parents have a wish to protect their children, particularly in the overly fear-driven environment that exists today. It’s easy to argue that 99% of strangers taking a photo of your child is harmless, but to a parent, the 1% of creeps is the only part of that equation that is relevant. So instead of fighting about the “rights” to do whatever you want, it just makes more practical sense to find the middle ground and be responsible.

    Being a good journalist and street photographer is as much about maintaining a good relationship with your subjects, audience and community as it is with getting compelling images.

    And it pays off – about 30% of the photos I shot over the years and gave the parents my card resulted in the parent calling me and asking me to sell them a print.

    No loss of rights for anyone, no uncomfortable parents, no cops, and great photos that told many stories and added to my bankroll – win win win and win.

    There are times when practicality and being rational is a better approach then standing by a philosophical argument…

  • guest

    “anyone who has kids would be scared”

    Years ago, the common response would have been “people would be curious”.

    How times have changed.

  • bob cooley

    In total agreement with this – Growing up I remember having pretty free reign to run around and pretty much do anything as long as I was home for dinnertime – My parent raised me to think about what I was doing, and consequences – but let me learn many lessons on my own without being sheltered.

    I don’t believe that we live in a statistically more dangerous society 30 years later – but we are certainly made to believe that we are. Mass media and the use of fear in politics has really changed the way that families conduct themselves with concepts like “Stranger Danger” when FBI studies show that the vast majority of abuse, abduction, etc. are by people the children know (family, friends of family).

  • Jonathan Maniago

    “‘panicked… packed up his camera and left,’ once bystanders noticed him taking photos.”
    Still can’t tell if he was a paedophile or just some shy photographer, but panic has never helped anybody.

  • Kaemaril

    “unless he is a known pedo he would not be allowed around kids”

    I think that bit needs reworking :)

  • Sascha

    In Europe the numbers of child abuse and murder decline from year to year. But excessive media coverage of the few remaining cases is growing constantly, making many people believe a child would not survive 10 minutes in public without being raped.

    In the end this leads to witch hunts against careless photographers etc. while the people do not see the real dangers, as real paedophiles would never show them selves openly in public using big cameras taking photos.

    Those people are using small (video)-cameras with massive zoom factors and go unnoticed by many parents.

  • derekdj

    “often by asking the child, or by knocking on the front door if it was around their home” – You are aware that if you were to approach the child today and asked if their “parents are around” or followed them home you would be nailed as a pedophile so fast you wouldn’t have time to say “Miranda” (guilty or not).

    We live in a very different time, this isn’t a US issue either. I’ve done travel photography across Asia and Europe, the one thing local handlers always warn me of, is never take a photo of child without the parent’s consent first, situations can turn ugly, quickly.

  • Bewar3them00n

    This reminds me of case a few years ago, when a Paediatricians surgery was attacked, due to a bunch of idiots who can’t tell the difference between the two words !
    People are so ready to descend into mindless, mob mentality these days, it’s ridiculous! I remember taking some snaps of kids playing in a fountain at Canary Warf one late afternoon, about a decade ago, the light was great, and the last thing to cross my mind was that I would get pulled up for taking pictures of kids, I was just in the zone and snapped them as I passed, now however, due to media making everyone suspicious of everyone, Big Brother, little brother etc,mothered no way I’d do the same now, without making sure I wouldn’t get arrested or beaten up! I have a kíd of my own, and I’m always out taking pictures with him, but I’m even wary of doing so with other kids in the same shot, just in case I get an irate parent accosting me…. Sad society we now live in

  • bob cooley

    Actually, quite the contrary – whenever i shoot a candid photo of a child today, I still use the same approach – I’ve never run into an issue – and I live in NYC now, where people are far more cautious about strangers than in the Midwest where I lived for many years.

    Also, an important professional skill is to have an understanding of how to relate and speak to LEOs so they have a clear understanding of what you are doing and why. Again, its taking the reasonable approach where everyone comes out a winner.

    And I never said “I follow children home” kindly don’t misquote or paraphrase me – that scenario would be a recipe for disaster. I’ve shot on plenty of travels as well (including the work I do for organizations that support orphanages – feel free to look it up), and its important to have an understanding of cultural norms and boundaries, and how to navigate them reasonably.

  • Robert

    I’ve heard of this behavior a lot in the city I live in. People hide behind the bushes with telephoto lenses at playgrounds taking photos and trying to hide the fact they’re taking photos of kids. This person may have the right to do it, but their behavior is creepy is doesn’t build any trust that what they’re doing is above board. These folk often hide or run away when confronted. No legitimate photographer would behave this way.

    Photographers have to adapt their behavior to a variety of subjects: safety precautions with wildlife, permits for shooting in restricted areas or packing properly to get that backwoods landscape. If you’re hiding in the bushes and hiding the fact that you’re taking photos of children at a playground, then you are not doing it right. I can’t emphasize that enough. Your look creepy to other people and you will invite a lot of attention from parents, who are totally justified in investigating the behavior of someone that’s doing odd things around their children (not limited to photographers).

  • Carl Meyer

    The majority of assaults happen among family members so hunting strangers with cameras is not going to solve it.

  • Willi Kampmann

    When I’m walking around the city taking pictures I always try to stay away from children unless they are accompanied by their parents, because I’m always afraid this might look strange. While photographing adult strangers is accepted in our society, most people get suspicious when someone is photographing underage strangers. And my knowing this probably leads to me behaving all the more suspicious.

    Still, I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry and I think that generally speaking it is a good thing that people are so cautious of children in public. I find the phrase “this person won’t last in the area very long” very problematic, but as long as people are just staying cautious this might be a risk that photographers have to accept.

  • Robert

    The most basic part of my job as a parent is the safety of my child. That means I have to think about a lot of things, like keeping her from climbing on something dangerous, running into the street, and being aware of what people around us are doing when we’re in public.

    Let me be clear: I’m not calling for a witch hunt against photographers. What I’m asking you do to is consider this from the parents’ point of view: A guy in sunglasses and a trench coat with an SLR is taking photos of your child from behind a brick wall, and taking great pains to avoid being noticed. Are you really saying that parents are to treat that situation as “oh he’s just lawfully exercising his civil rights?” – lets say you approach this person to inquire about their motives and they run away? What is that parent to think? Many parents conclude: this guy is creepy, up to no good, and I don’t want him anywhere near my child.

    Given that, how do you think a legitimate photographer should behave if he doesn’t want to be considered creepy and arouse suspicion about his or her motives? Photographers already change their behavior when it comes to a variety of specialized subjects, I don’t understand why people here seem to think that children are exempted.

    “Don’t be creepy” is a big discussion topic when people talk about street photography, wouldn’t you think that doubly applies to playground photography?

  • Rob Elliott

    This is why you don’t take photos of kids unless they are your kids,

  • Carl Meyer

    People is not going to stop taking pictures of pretty looking girls or funny looking boys, not matter if they are 5 or 50, so overreacting only helps to create more uneasiness, fueling the idea that strange looking strangers behaving strangely are taking strange pictures of strangers for strange reasons.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Basically everything you said can be summed up with one word: empathy.

    Photographers are very conscious of their own rights and desires. Sometimes thinking about other people gets pushed aside, and that’s a problem.

  • Rabi Abonour

    If you look guilty, people will think you’re guilty. There is a reason that seasoned street shooters recommend engaging with your subjects if they notice you, rather than shying away.


    I like the irony of the “Similar Stories” link right above the comments:

    How to Photograph Kids… By a Former Poorly Photographed Kid

  • Rob Elliott

    that is a bit like hearing about a man offering kids candy from his windowless panel van, and drove off when parents started to approach the van, and then saying “the Majority of assaults happen among family members so hunting strangers offering kids candy in a pedovan is not going to solve it.”

    If you see a possible danger like this you report it plain and simple. It may not wipe out child assault wholesale, but if it prevents one, particularly in the case of someone acting a little creepy and then running, then the neighbourhood should do it’s job.

    Seriously what you just said is that parents shouldn’t worry about creepy photographers because ignoring will only result in very rare traumatizing sexual assaults on children and that’s ok.

  • John

    I live near this park. It’s in an urban area with a number of addict outreach centres and transitional housing for people with mental health issues. It’s not dangerous by any means, but it’s not the best place to walk through at night. Understandibly, residents are extremely protective of their children.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Never photograph children without their parents’ permission. It’s as simple as that. No need to make it more complicated.

    If a parent sees some rando taking pictures of their kids, they have every right to assume the worst.

  • Andrew Iverson

    View from the other side, perhaps they where coming at him looking violent and angry. If i see a mob coming my way looking like that, i’m getting out of there, unless i’m armed, and even then probably getting out of dodge.

  • Richard Ford

    Paedophile even….. As in “paediatrics”.

  • Jack Theripper

    Look, let’s be quite clear about this shall we?
    If you are taking pictures of children in 2013, you are – prima facie – a paedophile.
    Tough – maybe.
    Unfair – very probably.
    What is so difficult to understand about that??