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South Florida Media Asking Citizens to Report Man who Photographed Government Building

The South Florida media is reporting on an alarming incident in which a man photographed a government building in Fort Lauderdale before driving off, encouraging the public to call “crime stoppers” to report any information on this mysterious man who was caught on a surveillance camera, adding that they may even be eligible for a reward.

After all, the man went as far as typing on his iPad after taking the photos.

Who knows what could have happened if it weren’t for an alert security guard who became suspicious after the man walked up to him and asked him for directions to places around town before walking away and taking photos of Broward’s Government Center.

Although the incident took place on August 1, Fort Lauderdale police waited until Tuesday, August 21, to send out a press release, perhaps as a test to see which news agency would take the bait to report any inane information they put out there.

Local 10 made them proud, going as far as kicking off its news segment with the ominous story, dispatching reporter Janine Stanwood to the government building that had been photographed where she interviewed a security guard and a random woman who stated that she was grateful they were trying to track down this “suspicious photographer.”

WSVN-TV didn’t appear to send out a reporter, judging by their news story, but they also failed to inform readers that the “suspicious photographer” wasn’t breaking any laws by taking photos of a government building.

Even the South Florida Sun Sentinel jumped on the press release with reporter Tonya Alanez calling the Fort Lauderdale police flack for more information.

A man recently raised concerns when he was seen taking panoramic photos and typing into an electronic tablet in a parking garage at the Broward County Governmental Center, authorities said.

Fort Lauderdale police are investigating the Aug. 1 episode as a “supicious incident” and are asking for the public’s help identifying the man, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

After asking a security guard “a variety of questions,” the guard witnessed the man at about 8 a.m. in a secured area of the building’s parking garage at 115 South Andrews Avenue taking panoramic photos or video and typing into an electronic tablet, Detective DeAnna Greenlaw, a spokeswoman for the department, said.

“The totality of the male’s actions raised concerns and he was told to leave the premises,” Greenlaw said.

Alanez perhaps should have read the Sun Sentinel article that was published three days earlier in which fellow reporter Adam Sacasa wrote the following:

Smartphones are almost everywhere, and these portable video cameras can do a lot more than capture a picture of your last lunch or latest outfit. Sometimes, they can land you in jail, especially when videotaping the police.

But according to state law, they shouldn’t.

The law allows people to shoot video and photos in public places, including pictures or video of working law enforcement, but some people wind up arrested when they do so. Legal experts say some police officers are playing fast and loose with the law, and these arrests are often tossed.

***

Carlos Miller, a multimedia journalist who runs the blog Photography is not a Crime, said people are allowed to shoot photos and videos of federal or government buildings from public areas, adding that people can see the building online from sources like Google Street view.

I won’t even get on Sacasa’s case for failing to link to my blog because he at least made a strident effort to inform readers of the law when it to comes to recording in public.

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The rest of the idiots were just pandering to police, which is why we need more citizens out there with cameras willing to document government activity. Even if they do end up the subject of varied news reports promising rich rewards to viewers who call Crime Stoppers.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.