Penticton committed to protecting privacy of pool patrons

City official says staff were quick to act on report of man taking photo of naked woman in change room

The City of Penticton is promising the safety of community centre patrons will remain paramount, in the wake of a Penticton man being convicted of mischief after snapping a photo of a nude woman at the facility.

“This individual obviously made a effort, it wasn’t as if he was just passing by,” said Simone Blais, communications officer with the City of Penticton.

Last week, Stephen Lechinsky pled guilty to a count of mischief and was sentenced to a conditional discharge with three years probation. A charge of secretly observe/record nudity in a private place was stayed.

The court heard that on Nov. 27, 2011 Lechinsky was in the family change room area at the Penticton Community Centre pool, adjacent to the women’s change room, when a woman, who was with her young son, observed a flash while she was naked and getting changed. The woman noticed a blue camera from the change area and Lechinsky was identified as the person operating the camera.

The $23.3 million community centre renovation included a new concept in change rooms that saw the construction of a family/universal change area along with separate men’s and women’s areas. The universal area allows lifeguards to monitor activities and for patrons to use lockers that are more exposed to deter theft.

Blais said there is a few banks of change rooms that have doors, but they are not floor to ceiling. The communications officer said as soon as lifeguards were notified of the situation of the man taking a photo they leapt into action, immediately notifying police and gathering information from the woman.

“Because of the actions of staff — they really did act very, very swiftly — they were able to get as much information to the RCMP as quickly as possible,” said Blais.

The city does have a policy about recording devices at the community centre pool and change rooms that is posted on signage in the facilities.

“This does include cellphones. Staff don’t search patrons, but they do advise them of the rules if they see the devices out and about. Staff do due diligence, even if it is innocent use like friends taking pictures of each other, group shots or those type of things, just to advise everyone of the policy. It is often never an issue because people understand change rooms and the pool aren’t the appropriate places to have cameras,” said Blais.

The city also has surveillance cameras installed at the entrance of the community centre and around the building, except in the change rooms to respect the privacy of the patrons. Blais said city council approved in the budget two additional surveillance cameras to monitor activities on the pool deck.

Judge Meg Shaw imposed conditions on the Penticton man last week that include not to attend or be within 10 metres of the Penticton Community Centre and not to attend any public swimming pool or change areas to which the public has access.

“From what I understand, this individual has been given probation and part of that is being prohibited from being at the community centre for three years. The individual is now known to staff and will not be granted access,” said Blais. “Staff are going to continue to work with authorities and they are still working with the complainant as well to ensure she and her family feel secure frequenting the pool. That is really important to the City of Penticton.”