Rumors of camera in rec center changing room drain prompt police action

Matt Roche • Updated Jan 27, 2019 at 11:53 PM

A social media post alleging there was a camera in a changing room at the Norwalk rec center caused quite a stir Friday.

“It was the blinking red light that gave it away,” Terry Mayfield’s Facebook post states.

Turns out the “red light” actually was the reflection from a sequin that likely had come off a bathing suit and was stuck in the drain, Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney said.

“There was no camera and there never was,” Conney said.

Before authorities reached that conclusion, however, the front desk at the Ernsthausen Community Center was flooded with calls, thanks to Mayfield’s post going viral. The Milan resident’s post, originally made at 11:22 a.m. Friday, had 92 comments and 313 shares by 7 p.m. the same day. 

“It just shows you how fast things take off when you post something on social media,” Conney said, adding if people suspect criminal activity, they should report it to police — not social media.

Conney said the Facebook poster’s husband was showering in the family locker room and noticed the light in the drain.

“Instead of reporting it to police, or the personnel down there, apparently he thought, ‘I’m going to work out tomorrow. I’ll talk to one of the maintenance guys and we’ll pull the cap off,’” Conney said.

Then Terry Mayfield posted this on Facebook: “For anyone that goes to the Rec in Norwalk, a camera was found in the drain in the family changing room. I don't know what kind of sick (expletive) would watch little ones change, but please check the drains and keep your eyes out for unauthorized video cameras. It was the blinking red light that gave it away.”

After becoming aware of the post, Conney went to the rec center and met with Joe Lindenberger, superintendent of the Norwalk parks and recreation department. They inspected the locker rooms.

“I didn’t see anything that made me think there was a camera,” Conney said.

However, the police chief said it’s not impossible that a camera could have been hidden, so he continued the investigation.

Detective Sgt. Seth Fry enlisted the services of an electronics detection dog through the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task-force. The dog and its handler readily agreed to make the trip from the Parma area.

Similar to drug or arson detection dogs, electronics detection dogs are trained to recognize a chemical odor, and to sit when the odor is present in order to alert its handler. When the dog correctly identifies an odor, it gets food.

Meanwhile, Capt. Jim Fulton reached out to Mayfield, who explained it was her husband who had told her about the red light in the drain, prompting the post.

The husband then went to the rec center, met with police and staff and pointed out the drain in question.

When the cap was removed, the sequin was spotted — just about the time the electronics detection dog arrived in Norwalk, Conney said.

Just to be safe, “the K-9 went through every locker room and alerted to absolutely nothing,” the chief said.

Conney said there was “no intent of being harmful” on the part of the Facebook poster.

Later Friday, Mayfield added this to the post: “Update: Norwalk Cops investigated and found no camera. I apologize for reporting this.”

Mayor Rob Duncan also received a lot of calls about the allegation. He encouraged people with issues to report them to the proper channels, not social media.

“Go to the front desk and contact police,” Duncan said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority.”

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