Japanese police, local governments and citizens groups are seemingly fighting a losing battle in trying to prevent voyeurs and peeping toms from taking their stolen pictures because of the technological advances in gadgets used for the sleazy crime. Due to technology, high-quality cameras have become smaller and easier to conceal, with their prices dropping down because of demand. These factors have fueled the proliferation of these small camera devices and have seemingly encouraged these seedy men – mostly Japanese men – in their actions.
A young Japanese man in his 20s expressed his regrets after being arrested for sneaking into a public restroom and taking a video of a woman inside a stall. But after visiting Tokyo’s Akihabara district – Japan’s electronics center and home to stores selling all sorts of high-technology gadgets – several years later, the supposedly repentant man resumed his creepy ways. “I think I was largely affected by the circumstances,” the man said. “I thought if I secretly shoot pictures using a tiny spy camera, no one would be able to find out.” For his latest misdeed, he used a hidden camera that he bought at a security equipment store in Akihibara, nearly identical to a plastic case for mints which made for easy concealment.
According to the National Police Agency (NPA), 2,408 cases of secret picture-taking were reported last year, compared with 1,296 in 2008. The agency said that around 63 percent of these cases used smartphones or other phone devices with cameras, while 11 percent relied on tiny hidden cameras. Moreover, apps that silence the shutter sounds on smartphones are widely available, and offenders are now also able to take videos and record silently. “Thanks to the technological advancement of lenses and storage media, camera voyeurism has become an easy-to-do crime,” said Naoya Hiramatsu, a private detective and chief of the Wakayama-based group National Peeping Crime Prevention Network. Hiroaki Ono, chief editor of electronics magazine Radio Life, said increased imports of secret cameras from China and other countries have brought down street prices in Japan. “High-performance cameras designed for private detectives have been available for less than 20,000 yen ($204) in recent years,” Ono said. “They used to cost between 30,000 yen and 50,000 yen.”