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Camera found at YMCA hidden in clothing hook, police say

It looked like a typical clothing hook, attached to the back of the door leading into a changing room for families at the North Branch YMCA.

But there was a pinhole camera hidden inside, police say, and from where it was placed it had a clear view of most of the room.

The camera was discovered when a woman accidentally knocked it to the floor on Monday. She turned it over to police.

"There is no explicit images of any children" in the footage discovered on the camera, Lt. Randy Reynolds of the Wichita Police Department's sex crimes unit said Friday.

Reynolds would not say what the footage contains, only that a time stamp indicates it was shot between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. June 10.

The footage could not be viewed or accessed remotely, Reynolds said.

Investigators want to hear from anyone who used the changing room at that time so they can identify who is on the footage. People are asked to call the sex crimes unit at 316-268-4157 or 316-268-4137.

Police also want to hear from anyone who noticed suspicious behavior at the North Branch Y at 3330 N. Woodlawn late last week. Those people can call the sex crimes unit or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.

Investigators aren't sure how long the camera had been in the changing room, Reynolds said, but there is no footage earlier than June 10. The black clothing hook is about 4 1/2 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches wide.

The hook used an adhesive on the back. The camera can be purchased off the Internet for about $40, Reynolds said.

"The device is not something that would stand out," Reynolds said. "It's certainly something that could have shown up anywhere."

That's why police are making the device containing the hidden camera public.

"They could be in changing rooms anywhere," he said, including clothing stores and health clubs.

"Certainly, there's no legitimate purpose for putting up something like that," Reynolds said, adding that it's "alarming" that the device is so readily available.

"Don't just assume that because you're behind closed doors that it's private," he said.

YMCA officials searched their branches around the Wichita metropolitan area and found no other hidden cameras, he said.

Shelly Conrady, communications director for the Greater Wichita YMCA, said it was the first time a secret recording device had been found in a local YMCA locker room.

She said YMCA employees are now being trained to detect hidden cameras and are being asked to conduct regular checks of locker rooms.

She said employees are being told that if they do find a hidden device, they should leave it alone and notify YMCA officials.

"We are taking this very seriously," Conrady said. "The safety and privacy of our members is a top priority."

Joe Oxler, manager of the Rock Road branch of Genesis Health Clubs, called news of the camera hidden inside a clothing hook "shocking" and "disturbing."

Employees perform checks of locker rooms every 30 minutes "to keep an eye on anything like that," Oxler said, as well as pick up towels and wipe down counters.

Members are forbidden to use cellphones inside the locker rooms because so many now have cameras as well, Oxler said.

Employees have been told to "keep an extra eye out" in the wake of news about the hidden camera, Oxler said.

"It can be tough," he said. "We're not in that locker room 24 hours a day."

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