Earlier this week, a 42-year-old man was arrested in connection with a troubling Twitter account that had been posting creepshots of women in public for about a year. The account—now suspended—was called @CanadaCreep and focused on taking videos and photos of women (and at least one underage girl) from behind, up-skirt, or focusing on the genital area. It had about 17,000 followers and over 500 posts before its suspension.
But before police arrested and charged Jeffrey Robert Williamson, 42, of Calgary, with six counts related to voyeurism and publication of voyeuristic images, they had some help from a popular Twitter account that acts as an online, evolved form of a neighbourhood watch: @Crackmacs. It's been around for eight years and is run by a married couple in their 30s who live near an infamous convenience store in Calgary that became the internet persona's namesake.
When someone alerted Crackmacs about the CanadaCreep account, they posted to their thousands of followers—over 4,000 on Facebook and over 23,000 on Twitter— on Monday, June 12. This elicited a response that helped identify the suspect.
"Our following went into the videos and started watching them to get a glimpse of the guy," one of the people behind Crackmacs told VICE over the phone. Due to the nature of their activities, they asked not to be identified. "They actually were able to pull two different screencaps of his face and what he looked like. From there, those got shared like crazy." Those screenshots can be seen below:
Crackmacs said they and many followers reported information to police immediately. Calgary Police Service, which Crackmacs says it has a good relationship with despite its bizarre account name, later praised the public help they had in identifying the suspect.
"The Calgary Police Service Cyber/Forensics Unit has charged a man in relation to the 'CanadaCreep' investigation thanks to overwhelming help from the public and extensive investigative efforts," a police press release read.
"One of the officers told me that we caused someone to have to stay up and work throughout the night," Crackmacs told VICE. Within 24 hours of Crackmacs' original Facebook post, the the CanadaCreep account was suspended and Williamson arrested. Alexandra Constantinidis, 22, who was a victim, also said she reported the account to police on Monday night after multiple friends told her that a 45-second video of her from behind was posted to CanadaCreep.
"The way that he was caught was someone saw the photos and screenshots of him, and they recognized him and contacted police. Someone knew him and turned him in, which is pretty awesome," Crackmacs said.
Though the account has various purposes, part of it has is dedicated to reporting various activity to police over the years in Calgary: everything from car accidents, to street brawls, to domestic violence incidents. They often film and post incidents to YouTube, where Crackmacs has amassed over a million views total to date.
"It's been a wild ride. There's two of us with cameras pretty much all the time," Crackmacs told VICE.
"People know that we are a large account, and they will send us things. Little birdies give us information because they know that we can amplify it and get the word out there, whereas traditional media may not give a shit or may not respond to them."
Now, Crackmacs has shifted its focus to a similar creepshot account—this time on Flickr—based in Vancouver called "vancouverstreets (aka CDN_sniper)." The account appears to have just been shut down yesterday.
"The media couldn't share [the suspect's] photo because it's media, but we don't have those restrictions and can do what we want—within reason," Crackmacs said. "You've got to be really careful with this stuff. If they were wrong, it could really ruin someone's life."
The most popular example of creepshot culture was the original subreddit where people posted non-consensual images of women in public; it was shut down in 2013. There are numerous similar active voyeur accounts that target women all over social media still, including a lengthy list on Flickr. To name just a few of many: "Girls on the Street," "Peeking Panties," "sexiest candid shots." These kinds of groups (some of which are private) on Flickr alone have thousands and thousands of members.
The investigation into the CanadaCreep account is still ongoing. Investigators are currently going through multiple terabytes of data they seized from various devices belonging to the suspect. If you have identified yourself in one of its posts, police ask you to phone the Calgary Police Service non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.
If you are a victim and would like to contact a crisis line, you can reach out to the 24-hour Distress Centre at 403-266-HELP (4357).
Follow Allison Tierney on Twitter.