Update (5/10/11): Apparently, I dropped the ball, neglected to do the legwork, failed to RTFM on this story. This story was passed along to me by a friend late yesterday afternoon, and in my hurry to get a post up and get out of the office, I didn’t notice that the article was 3 years old. The friend who sent it along pulled the link from a post at BoingBoing, which has also been removed as of this writing. A thousand apologies for this oversight. #LessonLearned
Readers in Maine, look out: peering at a child could land you on the wrong side of a anti-child predator law. Rep. Dawn Hill is championing a bill that would make “visual sexual aggression” (whatever the hell that means) an offense for viewing children in a public place.
The bill was prompted by the admittedly-creepy story of a guy watching children enter and exit a public restroom.
Her involvement started when Ogunquit Police Lt. David Alexander was called to a local beach to deal with a man who appeared to be observing children entering the community bathrooms. Because the state statute prevents arrests for visual sexual aggression of a child in a public place, Alexander said he and his fellow officer could only ask the man to move along.
“There was no violation of law that we could enforce. There was nothing we could charge him with,” Alexander said.
He attended a talk with Hill a week later and brought the case to her attention. Hill pledged to do what she could, Alexander said, and the result was a change through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in the House, which made the law applicable in both private and public places.
Hill said she believes the move was necessary to correct what she called a “loophole” in the state’s criminal law statutes.
Is visual sexual aggression really a thing? Like, a thing that police can arrest you for? How do they define it? Is it a gaze lasting more than 3.2 seconds? Or is it one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of laws that’s left entirely up to the officers to define and enforce?
Listen: being a creeper is not illegal as long as you aren’t actually harming anyone. I don’t like what may be playing out in that guy’s head, and if he ever made even the slightest gesture that indicated harm to a child or anyone else, I’d be the first person to punch him in the windpipe (figuratively speaking). Protecting children from actual harm should be the police’s job, not harassing Boo Radley because he makes the locals uncomfortable. I get that it sucks when the presence of creepers makes going to the beach or the pool less fun. But the answer to dealing with the few creeps out there is not to pass another vague law that could apply to anyone and for which the definition is determined by the arresting officer. This could easily turn into a law against irritating a cop while in close proximity to a public restroom.