Security man investigated over 'Peeping Tom' camera

A security manager is facing criminal charges over a surveillance camera that apparently allowed male employees to watch female residents in their bathing suits.

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DUBAI // A security manager at a building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers is facing criminal charges over a surveillance camera that apparently allowed male employees to watch female residents in their bathing suits. The device was mounted in a corridor between the female locker room and a women-only pool and gym at Lake Point Tower. It was intended to monitor whether men were entering the area, police said. Officers have referred the matter to public prosecutors because the camera was placed in a sensitive area.

"We take the issue of privacy very seriously," said Lt Col Abdul Qader al Bannai, the director of the Jebel Ali police station. "The way the camera was placed could have captured women in their gym clothes or swimming suits." The punishment for placing a camera in an inappropriate spot can be up to six months in jail and a possible fine, said Jouslin Khairallah, a Dubai-based criminal attorney. It can be difficult, however, to pinpoint who is responsible and to ascertain that the intent was to spy on people as opposed to protecting them.

"Fixing a camera in a place specialised for women, if it's not for security [but] to see something not allowed, it's legally forbidden," she said. "But the point is who's fixing this camera. Probably everyone will say 'this is not my responsibility'." Noha Fahim, an LPT resident, said she had voiced concerns about the camera to the building's facilities manager, Ahmed Aman, more than six months ago. She was assured that it was turned off and was being used only as a deterrent, she said. Mr Aman said he did not remember such a conversation. Any complaint must come as a written statement, which he never received, he said.

"You have my email address, you have my fax number, you have my PO box, you can send it officially to me," he said. "Why did they wait two years [to raise this]?" The camera complaint is one of many residents say they have lodged against Distinguished Real Estate (DRE), the building's developer. Other issues range from utilities charges to service fees. The camera was installed in 2008 along with the rest of the building's security equipment based on plans drawn up by DRE's consultant and its contractor and approved by the authorities, said Hassan Rashed, a DRE sales and letting official.

It was replaced earlier this month, raising questions among residents about why a device they had thought was not in use should be replaced. One person living in the building said the new camera was larger, a claim Mr Aman denied. A resident named Iptsam, who asked not to be identified further, said she saw the feed from the women's hallway camera on the monitors at the front desk, which was manned by security guards, on Tuesday, prompting her to call the police. Another set of monitors was in a private room staffed by building personnel. The camera was removed on Wednesday.

After collecting statements from residents and Mr Aman, police confirmed yesterday that the camera had been in use since the day it was installed. "For Muslims this is a very big deal," said one resident. "Stealing money is one thing. This is worse."