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Overzealous Security Guards Overstepping Authority

Joseph Rouse , Oct 14, 2011; 02:06 p.m.

Every time I am taking photos around downtown Denver, I find myself Confronted by security guards. They ask what I'm doing, who I'm with, etc and (incorrectly and with out success) tell me that I am not allowed to take pictures of the buildings. Ive been downtown on three different evenings recently, and the same thing has occurred each time. Obviously, these instances leave me irked, and to some extent unsurprised (private security guards have an deserved rep for this type of behavior). What I find iniquely disconcerting, it the extent to which this us occurring, and the exaggerated degree of paranoia being displayed. What's the deal?

Anybody else running into the same thing? And, assuming one is on public property, what rights do property owners/managers regarding pics being taken of their buildings?


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Leo Papandreou , Oct 14, 2011; 02:21 p.m.

The deal is they have a right to put those cameras in the ceilings that take thousands of pictures of you.

Don't pick your nose in the elevator.

barry goldberg , Oct 14, 2011; 02:45 p.m.

As long as you are on public property in the U.S., building owners and their security guards have no right to stop and interrogate you. However if they do try to stop you, I recommend being nice and talk with them. Don't take it personally and use this as an opportunity to educate them. Also don't do anything stupid.

John H. , Oct 14, 2011; 02:53 p.m.

"assuming one is on public property, what rights do property owners/managers regarding pics being taken of their buildings?"

Photographing in general (USA)? Virtually none. Although intrusion usually isn't from public property, it can be so that may apply. Same with criminal voyeurism statutes. Some military or other sensitive areas perhaps. For the most part, however, there would need to be some separate crime or civil action at issue. Breach of peace for some over the top behavior perhaps. Maybe stalking of some kind. But note these things generally have to do with people and not structures themselves.

Steve Smith , Oct 14, 2011; 02:54 p.m.

However if they do try to stop you, I recommend being nice and talk with them.

And if they are not being nice, call the police.

A. T. Burke , Oct 14, 2011; 03:18 p.m.

Mr. Rouse…

I’ve about had it too. In most municipalities, private security guards have no more authority to detain you, nor accost you nor lay hands on you or your property in the public domain than the other common thugs do.

There are exceptions. Governing bodies, acting as Pimps, are passing local ordinances giving the local gentry, major property owners and big box store mega-corporations more and more off premise “rights” over the ever shrinking middle class. I have lawyer friends in the two places that I travel to where I take pictures. They are just now researching (on my dime) exceptions to common law public freedom, especially in photography. Soon I will have attorney’s opinion letters, which will outline the law in that area. Thereafter, the next time some thug, in private patrol uniform or not, breaks the law and harms me in any way, I’m going to use my cell phone to call 911 and press charges with the responding police. If that does not work I’ll file suit naming the governing body, the guard service and whichever entity hired the guard service as co-defendants.

That is not everybody’s solution. It is my luxury because I’m old, retired and can afford it. I’m damn tired of being treated like a Jew in 1939 Germany. I don’t want to see America get to the point where men have to drop their pants in public to be examined for circumcision.

Please, go ahead and scoff at my ridiculous attitude and concerns. I got the same gaff and sneer when the first airport security started up in the early 1970s. I was the fool that said that before I died, every passenger would be heavily screened, probably with full body scans, luggage restricted, most personal pocket and purse items banned and people’s clothing would be stripped to the bare essentials as we’d go through security barefooted. See, I was WAY off. You get to keep your socks on………for now.

A. T. Burke

Bob Atkins , Oct 14, 2011; 03:51 p.m.

We'll your opposition to airport security doesn't seem to have done much good. If it ever gets to the point of flying naked, there are pluses and minuses to that. The planes will be less crowded for one thing. Though the scenery might not always be very aesthetic, there could be a few exceptions that might make it worthwhile....

Anyone who tells you you can't take a picture while you are standing on public property and not interfering with the flow of traffic can safely be ignored (with a couple of exceptions like photographing of some active military bases). Of course if it's a real cop you have to suffer the consequences of disagreeing with them which might include being detained for a while. If it's a private security guard they are committing assault if they attempt to physically detain you when you have committed no crime. They may also guilt of False Imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. They could be technically guilty of kidnapping, though that would be a stretch.

The best approach is to take the picture and then move on while ignoring them. Minimize the conflict but take the picture.

You really can't stop it happening. They have their instructions. as long as they don't actually get in your face, just ignore them. They have a perfect right to ask you what you are doing. You have a perfect right to ignore them. If they touch you, it's assault, though you might have a hard time bringing charges or even getting the police interested. Not being nice isn't a crime.

Eric Sande , Oct 14, 2011; 04:19 p.m.

Awhile back someone started a thread that included a YouTube video of photographers in London testing security. One policeman informed a security guard that was bothering a photographer that since he was on the sidewalk (considered public property), he could point his camera in any direction he wished. I would think that would apply to a true downtown area in the US.

Here in Las Vegas, there are very few areas with any personality so they have to create "fake" downtown shopping areas (Town Square south of the Strip and Tivoli Village on the west edge of town are two). Those are indeed private property with lots of private security.

ralph oshiro , Oct 14, 2011; 06:42 p.m.

A.T. Burke said:

. . . Soon I will have attorney’s opinion letters, which will outline the law in that area. Thereafter, the next time some thug, in private patrol uniform or not, breaks the law and harms me in any way, I’m going to use my cell phone to call 911 and press charges with the responding police.

As far as I recall, from my vague memories of my business law class in college, is that the most applicable action would be false imprisonment, which is a tort, so I believe this would have to be taken to civil court (rather than criminal).

From USLegal.com's website:

"False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of a person without consent or legal justification. False imprisonment can be committed by words, acts, or by both[i]. The common law tort of false imprisonment is defined as an unlawful restraint of an individual’s personal liberty or freedom of movement[ii]. In order to constitute the wrong it is not necessary that the individual be actually confined or assaulted[iii].

[i] Dietz v. Finlay Fine Jewelry Corp., 754 N.E.2d 958 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001).
[ii] Pechulis v. City of Chicago, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11856 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 7, 1997).
[iii] Whitman v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., 85 Kan. 150 (Kan. 1911)."

John Elder , Oct 14, 2011; 07:31 p.m.

If the conduct is being repeated, go to police in advance and ask them to watch from afar. Then when the security guard comes out to hassle you, the cop will be right there. Let the police know that the security guards are threatening you and or your equipment. If the police refuse to protect you, write a letter to the police with the time, date, and name of Offfice who refused to help you, and again make the same request in writing and ask for a written response. If the security guard continues to harrass you, then sue the guard, the guards employee, and the local police.

M6 + 35mm

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