The MBTA is issuing a clear warning— taking unwanted pictures of a person’s “private areas” is against the law.
The MBTA, with help from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, this morning unveiled the first of 300 new signs with that message at Back Bay Station. The signage is to be displayed in trains and buses throughout the city, said MBTA Transit Police.
The ad campaign comes after Governor Deval Patrick recently signed a law prohibiting taking such pictures in public places. The law closed a legal loophole that had sparked outrage.
Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan worked on the campaign with Gina Scaramella, executive director of BARCC.
“We want to alert passengers that this is a crime and if they see it, they should report it,” said MacMillan. “But we also want to tell people that we are taking this seriously and it will not be tolerated.”
The new signs, which will be posted above seats on every bus and train, display a simple message. “You have a right to privacy. Secretly photographing a person’s private area is against the law,” they read.
The 3-foot-by-1-foot signs cost the MBTA about $1,700, said MacMillan.
Transit Police have received over a dozen reports of these incidents, commonly referred to as “upskirting,” over the past few years, said MacMillan. He said he suspects the incidents have been underreported and he hopes to change that.
“There have been limited reports,” said MacMillan. “But this is a crime. We want people to come forward.”
MacMillan urged passengers to call 911 or report incidents using the MBTA’s “If you see something, say something” application for smartphones.
“And if it’s safe, turn the table on these people,” said MacMillan. “Take a photo of them so we can find them.”
Transit Police have been working with the BARCC to address sexual assault and harassment since 2008, Scaramella said in a statement.
“This is an example of the effective work we can do together,” she said.
The signs are to be posted over the next two days, said MacMillan.