Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hunt perv caught in a flash

When a pervert exposed himself on a Manhattan subway last week, Thao Nguyen reached for her secret weapon - her camera phone.

The quick-thinking 22-year-old snapped a shot of the smirking sicko, took it to cops and then posted it on the Internet.

Word of her campaign to nail the flasher raced through cyberspace, and more than 45,000 people had viewed the photographic evidence by last night.

"I just hope they catch him," Nguyen told the Daily News.

"Maybe someone will recognize him. Maybe it will stop other people from doing it," she said. "Maybe other women will use their camera phones to stop crime."

Nguyen's transformation from quiet Web developer to feisty crimefighter happened on an uptown R train the afternoon of Aug. 19.

She was on her way back to work after a job interview when a middle-aged, blond-haired man dressed in a black shirt and jeans sat down across from her.

"He kept staring at me," she said. "I could feel his eyes on me. I wanted to avoid eye contact so I looked away, but I could see his reflection in the window.

"I saw him massaging himself and then he unzipped and pulled it out. I thought, 'I can't believe he's doing this in the middle of the day!' "

The subway car was mostly empty and Nguyen felt nervous, so she pulled out her Samsung P777 cell phone, equipped with a 1.3 megapixel digital phone.

"I turned on the camera," she said. "He was still masturbating. I aimed it and quickly took the shot. As soon as I took it, he zipped up and got off the train."

Nguyen said she was disgusted by the incident and immediately reported it to a police officer at the 34th St. station.

The next day she filled out an official complaint, and the following day a detective had her look at hundreds of photos of ex-cons.

None of them was the culprit, but Nguyen wasn't about to give up. She posted the degenerate's photo on the Web sites Flickr and Craigslist, and bloggers began linking to her site.

Her photo and story drew a few juvenile snickers, but most of the comments have been positive. One Netizen wrote: "You go, girl!" Another commented, "I hope his mom sees it." The NYPD, which confirmed Nguyen had filed a complaint, also was impressed.

"It's great she took the picture; it'll help with the investigation," said NYPD Detective Kevin Czartoryski, who warned that a woman should be careful if the flasher sees her taking the picture.

"If it can be done in a safe manner, it'd be helpful to locate the suspect," said Czartoryski, a NYPD spokesman. "Common sense should be used when deciding if a picture can be taken."

Nguyen isn't the first straphanger to use her cell phone to catch a criminal.

In May, two Catholic schoolgirls took a photo of a man en flagrante on the F train and showed it to a cop, who nabbed the pervert.

Nguyen said even if her tormentor isn't caught - and charged with public lewdness, a misdemeanor that carries up to three months in jail - she's glad she took action. "He made me feel creepy," she said. "I want to embarrass him."

If you recognize the man in the picture, call the Daily News at (212) 210-1574 and let us know.

Source

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