Simply put, voyeurism is a crime

Sometimes, that tingly feeling that someone is watching you might just be right.

Residents in Koonce Hall discovered a hidden camera in a bathroom soap dispenser Monday. The camera was described by students as having an antenna, which means someone may have been watching or recording female residents in a location they certainly hoped was protected from prying eyes.

For fans of raucous college comedies, such as Revenge of the Nerds, peeping Toms may just seem like everyday juvenile behavior to be chuckled at. But it’s a crime – under Ohio law, such “video voyeurism” falls under the voyeurism statute, and can range anywhere from a third-degree misdemeanor to a fifth-degree felony, depending upon the circumstances. That could mean fines and jail sentences if the offenders are caught.

Still laughing?

The women of Koonce Hall certainly aren’t. Their privacy has been violated, regardless of whether this is a simple college prank or something more perverted. Residence halls are students’ homes, and as such, students should have an expectation that no one will be watching when they are at their most vulnerable.

Credit must be given to the Kent State Police Department and Residence Services, both of which took the complaint seriously and acted accordingly. Monday night, after residents discovered the camera, every bathroom in Koonce Hall was searched. By Tuesday morning, every other residence hall bathroom was inspected. No other cameras were found, Dean of Students Greg Jarvie said.

Video voyeurism is a new and evolving problem. Cameras keep getting smaller, and evolving wireless and battery technologies allow these tiny devices to be hidden in places like soap dispensers without any obvious wires to tip off victims. And the availability keeps growing as prices are falling. For every “nanny cam” that catches a slacking employee neglecting a child, a similar device can be used to spy on locker rooms, bedrooms, hotel rooms and bathrooms.

Ilse Knecht, a deputy director of public policy for The National Center for Victims of Crime, said that these crimes are so new that “there are just no stats, whatsoever.” The organization maintains a hotline for victims of crime to call to discuss options and get referrals to local resources. Calls to the hotline for these kinds of crimes have been increasing over the past two years, she said.

We don’t believe that Kent State has a pervasive problem of video voyeurs. But this incident highlights that people should be aware. If you think something looks suspicious, report it.

And if you think installing such a camera sounds like a fun idea, think again. Invading people’s privacy – and breaking the law – won’t be much fun if you’re caught.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.