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I wanted to share a story with everyone so you could be informed. Before I give you this information, I only ask that you read the full story before rendering judgment.

Here goes.

As a self-employed plumber I do business with a lot of different companies and a lot of different people in my line of work. Sometimes I run into things that make me feel uncomfortable. Most of the time I just accept it as part of the job. On a couple of occasions I felt the need to intervene. Sometimes my involvement has gotten me into trouble, but I can’t let the vulnerable be taken advantage of, just because others may choose to look the other way.

The other day I was working in a photography studio, trying to chase down the source of a leak. I needed to get into the wall of the studio’s changing room, so I was looking for the best place to access the pipes. I noticed that on the back side of the changing room was what appeared to be a closet, except it had no back to it, or it seemed much bigger than expected. After moving some boxes I could see inside. There was a camera on a tripod set up inside the space. The camera was pointing directly at what appeared to be a large piece of  dark glass on the wall.

The thing is, when the light was on in the changing room, whoever was inside this little closet room with the camera could see right inside the changing room. It was a two-way mirror. Obviously, someone had set this room up to take pictures of people changing clothes, without them knowing. Keep in mind this is a very reputable photo studio.

After leaving the job site I went straight to the police to explain what I’d seen. They asked if I’d seen anyone being photographed. I said no, that the place was empty. They asked if I’d heard anyone complain, or did I see any pictures lying around the room. Again, I said no, that the room was completely empty. What they told me next blew me away. They said that because there was no proof that anyone had done anything wrong, there was nothing for them to do, because I couldn’t prove that a crime had been committed. That was that.

I couldn’t believe it.

At this point, I don’t know what to do. Should I take matters into my own hands? Should I let the public know the name of the business, and who owns it? What happens then? Do we all march down to the photography studio and burn the place down? Do I take care of it myself, or do I ask for help?

I can’t help but wonder if anyone reading this will believe me. But I have to believe there are enough good people out there who can do something and help me stop what’s happening at the photo studio. I mean, what if you were the one behind that mirror having your photos taken of you while you were undressed, never imagining someone was watching you? What if it was your kid? Can you help me? If yes, then please keep reading.

I know that I told you at the start of this column that I needed you to read the whole piece to fully understand. I need to tell you one more thing. Everything I just described to you never really happened. I wrote this to help illustrate what happens when we hear of a great travesty that someone has committed. I told you this story, but I offered no proof of this allegation.

How many of us, after hearing this story, would have gone down to the studio if I’d disclosed a name? I did say that I talked to the police, yet how many people would have checked to see if I’d really done that? I could have ended this column with a simple address of a completely innocent photography studio. How badly do you think that business would have been vandalized? How quickly would that business owner’s reputation have been ruined? Even for those not inclined to do something physical, how many would have spread this around on social media, or told a friend, and that friend would have told another friend, and so on. What if it would have spread to a local news organization? Do you think they would have first checked out the story for themselves, or do you think they’d have just run with it?

This is exactly how someone can get perfectly rational people to inadvertently destroy innocent  lives. They feed us a story, and then they sit back and watch it take off. The more horrible the alleged transgression, the easier it is to believe.

When I mentioned that it could be your kid behind the mirror, how many people cease to think rationally at that point? This is exactly where the storyteller has the audience, because at that point, the audience is so furious, so upset, that they’re not thinking clearly. It’s at that very point that some people can rationalize doing something they normally wouldn’t do. This reaction is even more powerful in a crowd, with many people upset, because by then, mob mentality has taken over, and there’s no going back.

I hope that you can forgive me for putting you through this exercise, but I wanted to demonstrate how easily we can be manipulated. What I just did here is a tactic used all the time by governments, politicians, news outlets, even parents and teachers. Unfortunately, there are bad seeds in almost every group. We must be careful. We must listen, but we must also verify before believing the unbelievable.

The greater the lie, the easier it is to sell.

Dan Adams
Dan Adams has been a licensed plumbing contractor for nearly 30 years. He owns and operates Edgewood Plumbing  in Redding with his wife, Holly. In 2000 he and Holly moved to Redding from the Bay Area in search of a better place to raise their sons.
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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Nita Carter says:

    Great reminder. Thank you

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    A couple here in Eastern County were being targeted by person who threw rocks, breaking their windows, and generally harassing them. They knew who he was, but when they contacted the police numerous times, they, like Dan above, was told that there was nothing they could do because there were no witnesses. The couple has now left town after living here for 25 years because the perp used a slingshot not only to break a window but also to hit the woman in the face with a projectile, putting her in the hospital. That deed allowed the police to locate and arrest the person. Why the man chose to harass these people is a mystery. The husband was a medical professional who also was key to organizing the high school cross country team, and the wife had a beauty salon. And now they are gone. Although Dan above was cautioning care, I’m a little surprised that here in redneck country, the perp wasn’t fish food prior to LE finally having cause to arrest him.

  3. Avatar Tim says:

    I’d like to think a person falsely making such a claim would eventually be held accountable, though recent events in Chicago suggest otherwise.

    • Avatar Anita Brady says:

      WOW– if you made a list of those who got “off”in our country it would be pretty long. You have to bring up an event that still hasn’t been completely revealed. I would think you could have thought of the name and illegal event created by one, old, rich white man, since history shows us they are the ones NOT held accountable.

  4. Avatar James Montgomery says:

    “Innocent until proven guilty,” is more than just a standard of jurisprudence. It goes along with “don’t believe everything you hear.”
    Trial by newspaper is still quite common, and now we have the internet!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      I’ve thought that the phrase should actually be “innocent UNLESS proven guilty.” “Until” makes guilt sound like a foregone conclusion.

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    Dan, You just illustrated why I don’t like most crime watch sites on Facebook. I don’t mind being alerted to crime in my area but the comment thread quickly goes from “ I think I know the guy who did that” to “I know the guy who did that” to “ If I find him I’ll beat the crap out of him” and from there mob mentality sets in. If I take the time to follow the thread for a while invariably someone says “no, that’s not who that is” but by then vigilante mentality is off and running. Your column is a good reminder to keep your emotions in check while not jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions. Thanks.

  6. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Excellent, thought provoking article Don. You asked “what is the right thing to do” in this hypothetical situation. I’ve done a lot of work on computers and have stumbled on some questionable content. At least one man in Redding has gone to prison after a computer tech went to the police about what they found on his computer. In my case I talked to the owner of the computer. Was it their data? Had someone else used the computer? In one case, a school co-worker and I went to the principal to report pornography on her computer that had been downloaded when she wasn’t at school. In your scenario, was the owner, a teacher or a custodian responsible for the camera setup?
    A good practice is not to spread negative information about any business. I’ve never told anyone which restaurant I visited recently where I spied a couple of cockroaches scurrying around the place. When I notified the owner, he could do what needed to be done….hire a different exterminator for example. This seems like a better solution than spreading information that could put him out of business.