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Emily Welker, Published July 11 2013

Fargo police say ‘upskirting’ not growing issue

FARGO – A Fargo police spokesman said Thursday he doesn’t believe a case this week of a man being accused of taking a photo under a woman’s dress at a Fargo store is an example of “upskirting” taking off locally.

“Upskirting” is taking a photo or video from a view under a woman’s dress or skirt, usually in public without her consent. The photos are often posted online.

“There’s certainly every different fetish – but typically they’re spread out geographically, there’s not a lot of people in one area,” said Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel.

Vettel said investigators interviewed the 27-year-old man who turned himself in to police Wednesday after seeing his image from store cameras on TV. The man, who witnesses said was standing in the checkout line of a local Target store, placed his hand, containing a cellphone, under the dress of a female victim, who was standing directly in line in front of him, according to a police report.

Vettel said that police had no information the suspect had posted any images of the woman online, but that the investigation was complicated by the fact that police could not prove he actually took an image under the victim’s dress.

He said police may not have enough evidence to get a warrant to search the suspect’s computer.

“I don’t think we have enough evidence to get past his phone,” he said, though he said an investigator was still in the process of determining whether a forensic exam would be conducted on the suspect’s electronic devices.

“We’ve got to be careful where we move from here – we don’t want to set bad case law with this individual, because they haven’t crafted a law” in North Dakota addressing upskirting in particular, Vettel said. The man’s conduct amounted to a disorderly conduct charge, he said.

The suspect’s case has been forwarded to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible charges.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541