Is this guy a predator on the prowl, or am I over-reacting to Naked Yoga Guy at the playground?
January 20, 2012 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Is this guy a predator on the prowl, or am I over-reacting to Naked Yoga Guy at the playground?

So, hivemind...give to me your opinions on this.

Boy and I went to a playground today. Dozens of children. A handful of parents scattered around, but mostly kids age Toddler to 4th grade. Suddenly, this lone guy (sans children) pulls up to the playground, attaches some bizarre harness thing to one of the structures, strips down to some micro-briefs, and then starts using said harness thing to stretch.

Ok...kinda weird, but not close to the kids, more over by where parents, while my internal Momma Bear alarm went off, I didn't feel the need to say anything.

Then...then...THEN...he goes into the middle of the playground, in the center of a group of very young little girls, and commandeers the parallel bars and starts doing exercises whereby his microbriefs gave evidence that he was not Jewish...if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Then, while some little girls were trying to play on the monkey bars, he hoists himself up in the center and starts doing pull ups, then alternating between pushups on the ground, and pull ups on the bars.

All of the moms just froze, and for some unknown reason, everyone looked at because I'm the chick in black, I'm supposed to do something about Naked Yoga Guy. But frankly, I didn't want to get Naked Yoga Guy all over me, and there were two burly city workers just the other side of the park, so I walked over to them and pointed out Naked Yoga Guy, doing pull ups that put his groin at the head level of little kids, and they went and shooed him away from the actual playground, but then he went and hung in his harness for a while...then oddly enough went and got an electric guitar...(there's no power at the playground) and started to play his guitar...while hanging in his harness and wearing micro-briefs.

After a while, Boy and I left, and wandered across the street to a barber shop so Boy could get a high&tight, and when we came out, Naked Yoga Guy was still at the park, only now he was talking to a bunch of little girls that he had gotten off the playground and near his car. (These were kids with Down's Syndrome that were on a field trip from the facility where they go to after-school care. The youngest was about 3, the oldest about 7.)

So, I went over to the caregivers of the field trip, and pointed out that the guy was over there, and that his car was very close to where he and said children were, and were not close to said caregivers. They didn't seem concerned, but I was, so I shooed the girls back on to the playground. I gave NYG the "WTF?" look and said "Dude, put your clothes on." and walked away.

In talking to another parent, she said he had just started showing up a day or two ago, and they thought it was weird. I got pictures of him via surreptitious cell phone, because I thought it was beyond weird, right into dangerous. (But then I have hair-triggers for child molestation.)

Does anyone else think this is something I should drop by the cop shop and mention, or am I over-reacting here?
posted by dejah420 to Society & Culture (58 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Call the police. You're not overreacting. Going into the middle of the group of kids, and talking to them by his car, was way over the line.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:18 PM on January 20, 2012 [34 favorites]

Call the cops. They need to wander down and let NYG know that someone is watching him. Someone who is not a 5 year old girl and who is not impressed with his antics.
posted by ninazer0 at 10:20 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Predator. Cops=yes
posted by zia at 10:21 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is what the police can help you with. If you can document a few more instances, and give it to the police with times of day, etc., they'll probably start posting an officer over there. Even if he's not breaking any laws, there may be a rule that the playground equipment is just for kids, and enforcing that may be enough to get him to move on.
posted by elizeh at 10:22 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please take note that you've been calling him "Naked Yoga Guy". I think that says enough. Please call the police the next time you see him being the Naked Yoga Guy on a playground full of children.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hell, yes, drop by the cop shop and tell them the story and show them your pics. He may be innocent of nefarious intentions, but he needs to know that his behaviour is inappropriate.

Having lived next door to a 50-ish year old man who was well aware that his touching was inappropriate - but the police believed his "I didn't know it was wrong because I'm simple (direct quote)" routine - protect the kids first.

Fuck his rights, the rights of innocent children who may or may not be at risk come first.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:26 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Cops cops cops. Even on the 0.05% chance he's just incredibly, over the top eccentric and harmless, he can go be that somewhere where there isn't the other 99.95% chance he's a danger to the kids.
posted by chainsawpudding at 10:27 PM on January 20, 2012

Something is seriously wrong with this guy, maybe not an outright predator but he definitely needs a talking to by someone in a position of authority to make him realize that his behavior is questionable bordering on outright offensive.
posted by myShanon at 10:27 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

No need to overreact, just make a nonemergency call to the police and ask them to shoo him away.
posted by hermitosis at 10:39 PM on January 20, 2012 [16 favorites]

I'm with hermitosis on this one. This guy seems extremely odd but I wouldn't jump to "predator." Just call the number and let cops know.
posted by sweetkid at 10:45 PM on January 20, 2012

I don't think a non-emergency call is enough; too easy to brush off as something that has already happened or not yet happened again, so it's not actionable. "There's a man here at the playground right now and he's acting strangely and exposing himself to the children." Cops love taking these calls. They set land speed records responding to them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [23 favorites]

It doesn't sound like it's happening right this minute though? If you call 911 about something that happened earlier in the day, that's not going to help. I guess calling 911 in the moment could be a good idea, if you're really worried.

I don't know much about how predators behave, but I don't think they would call so much attention to themselves if their real mission were to hurt children. He definitely shouldn't be in a playground near kids, but it doesn't sound to me like he has actual intent to harm.
posted by sweetkid at 10:56 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like it's happening right this minute though?

No, I'm just saying, for next time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 PM on January 20, 2012

Ah, makes sense then.
posted by sweetkid at 10:58 PM on January 20, 2012

I think the typical pedophile knows how absolutely wrong their urges are and would do nothing to call attention to themselves, but this guy could be some kind of weird kind of exhibitionist who targets children. It's worth a little police attention, but I can't see calling 911 if there's no actual crime taking place.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:00 PM on January 20, 2012

Response by poster: Oh yeah, I wouldn't call 911. I was thinking more along the lines of dropping by the station, and talking to the officer on duty and saying "Hey, this weird thing happened, and other moms say that he's been there for the last couple of days, and the city workers that were here at Time X on Date Y shooed him off, and I'm wondering if we could get a patrol woman/man there after school for a couple of days to take a look..."

But, I didn't want to waste patrol resources if I were just being overprotective, and the guys actions were seen as relatively normal by people who doesn't have the same triggers I do.
posted by dejah420 at 11:13 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely let the police know. I was in a situation like this, and the police definitely knew the guy. Don't worry about wasting their time -- the police weren't at all worried that I wasn't sure how to handle it, because they knew the appropriate response so I never regretted talking to them.

They also had plenty of good advice as well which made me feel better.

I also think in future if he turns up, you and the other moms should feel no hesitation about asking him to move along and that his behaviour isn't appropriate for a playground and he should take it away is the playground is a space for kids not yoga and exercise routines. If he *is* simply socially inept, he now has useful information and can make better decisions.
posted by chapps at 11:20 PM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Sometimes when shit is triggering, there's a tendency to overcompensate and not respond forcefully enough to situations that need a response.

You're not overreacting here.

Even if this guy's motives were completely innocent, his behavior is inappropriate. That he can't see that nearly naked, attention seeking behavior towards children has - at the very least - the appearance of impropriety; well, his judgement is perhaps not what it should be.

Talk to the cops. Let them handle it if it continues, and thanks for speaking up.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:25 PM on January 20, 2012 [24 favorites]

One thing that the cops can do is determine whether he has a record.
posted by dhartung at 11:26 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

There is no downside to calling the cops. Absolutely best case scenario, he's a totally harmless guy with a deeply creepy and inappropriate set of boundaries, and he learns rapidly how badly he's creeping people out so he can stop it. Personally my money's on exhibitionist, possibly with the kids being his target but maybe more likely the moms? but it has still got to stop regardless.
posted by KathrynT at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you've got the right idea here. Definitely a strange situation, and you're likely not bothering the cops at all by telling them this.
posted by sweetkid at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2012

You'd think a predator wouldn't want to be so obvious, but I'm kind of concerned about his relationship with consensus reality. Not on account of the underwear and the harness per se, but because it's not clear how he relates to the fact that doing this in the middle of some kids is a provocative act that is bound to worry parents. Persuading mentally challenged 3-to-7-year-olds to leave the playground and join him near his car is genuinely alarming, though -- what did he have to say to them there that he couldn't say on the playground, etc etc -- and the fact that he was willing to do it out there in the open might just as well say alarming things about impulse control as reassuring things about naive simple-mindedness. One possibility is that he's a relatively harmless exhibitionist. But there's maybe a darker one where he wants kids to see him as fun and nutty and ask him questions and maybe get interested in trying out his stuff, while simultaneously using his incredible brazenness and goofiness as a kind of defense against accusations. (If that was what he wanted, it worked, didn't it?) I'd be more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt if it weren't for the car thing, but even if he's just a carefree Nature Boy who's too socially unaware to realize that he's could be making parents nervous or that kids can basically see his junk, he could still stand to have some cops at least tell him to keep his pants on in front of the kids before he comes across some parent who's gonna kick the shit out of him. Also perhaps a special warning about not walking away from the playground and taking Down syndrome kids with him.
posted by Adventurer at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Wow, yeah I came in here ready to tell you to chill and let him be, since I have no problem with public nudity/semi-nudity and/or the use of playground equipment by adults. But reading your description, even I think he's creepy and probably a pervert of some kind, and that you are not at all overreacting by calling the police. It's particularly the fact that he somehow felt the need to move into the centre of the group of kids to do his weird naked yoga, and the way he was talking to the down syndome kids that would alarm me.

Someone who just wants to use playground equipment for exercise and be semi-naked outdoors would usually pick a time when kids are not going to be at the playground (so that they have more access to the equipment, as much as anything), and/or would situate themselves well away from the children.
posted by lollusc at 11:45 PM on January 20, 2012 [20 favorites]

My long distance diagnosis based on your description: mental illness. Which doesn't mean he's necessarily a predator. But that's cold comfort - because what it means, is that he's unpredictable. Unpredictable is bad. Cops can help him get help. Call 'em.
posted by VikingSword at 12:09 AM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

He's crazy and it's perfectly OK not to want crazy people around kids. But let the cops deal with him, because he's crazy.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

OP Telling the police about the situation and showing them the pictures wouldn't be wasting resources. Ultimately, they would be the ones to decide whether they thought it warranted checking out or if they thought you were just being an overprotective mom. The worst that can happen from talking to them is they think you're a bit sensitive.

Whether or not you talk to the police, I'd also get with the other mom's and babysitters and nannies and whoever else regularly brings kids to the park... make sure everyone is extra careful when he's around, no kids wandering off alone, pulling the kids away from where he is if things look hinky...

At the absolute minimum he needs to be made aware that his behavior is cause for concern, if that involves the police talking to him or some level headed member of the crowd speaking up to suggest he find a different time of day to visit the park when the children wouldn't be present to witness any *cough* accidental exposure his tiny shorts contribute to...
posted by myShanon at 12:23 AM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the input/validation gang, I'll stop by the station in the morning.
posted by dejah420 at 12:46 AM on January 21, 2012

Yeah, odd more than predator. I would let the cops know and let them deal with it.
posted by mattoxic at 12:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes people do things like this out in the open because they know they can and few people will call them out on it. There's a brazen arrogance to it because they know it will embarrass people to actually do anything about it so few people will. Or there will be this whole 'is that as weird as I think it is?' questioning that will also put people off doing anything about it (as you know). It's not predatory behavior so much as a highly self-indulgent. Some people will just do things because they can.

Sometimes people are just generally completely clueless - no joke - and will have no idea that they're being grossly inappropriate.

Either way, someone in a position of authority needs to let him know his behavior is not okay.
posted by mleigh at 1:31 AM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Where I live adults are not allowed in playgrounds without accompanying kids. If this is true in your jurisdiction, you're doubly within your rights to talk to the police about this guy.

At minimum, he's eccentric but he's displaying his genitals in a public place and doesn't need to be doing this. At maximum, he's really dangerous.

Those parameters are definitely enough for you to go talk to an authority. As people have said above, I'm willing to bet that the police are familiar with this guy. They will hopefully be able to help.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:20 AM on January 21, 2012

What also worries me is if by some chance any of the kids were thinking he was odd, and no parent did anything, then they may assume the guy was OK. Kids should not lapse into a false sense of security because parents are worried about upsetting the status quo. I would want to do anything I could to reinforce kids' awareness of those times where you want to err on the side of caution. I am shocked that the caregivers brushed you off. Major fail.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:47 AM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yup, what everybody else has said. Maybe not dangerous, but definitely outside the bounds of propriety. This is not the time to form a vigilante mob, but it's definitely the time to let the cops know about him, because that's what cops are for.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:58 AM on January 21, 2012

Take a video camera and tape him. Be very obvious about it. If that doesn't chase him away, give the tape to the local TV news crew.
posted by yclipse at 5:04 AM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also think I would be suspicious of any guy running around in skivvies in January temps, acting like it doesn't phase him at all. Sure, maybe he just got back from Tibet, but really?

I was ready to temper my reaction until you said he had cornered kids with DS. That anybody would take advantage of their sweet, trusting nature....OK, my head just exploded.

The police will undoubtedly be interested in your information and photos. Make sure they can contact other moms if need be.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:36 AM on January 21, 2012

I agree with everybody else, and a non-parent I tend to stick up for the rights of non-parents to be in the world with kids and not be perceived as scary. But this set of behaviors is concerning.

You'd think a predator wouldn't want to be so obvious,

Yeah, but often they are, especially when you recognize the behavior patterns. Being unaware/out of touch with the possible reactions of parents is a big one. Allowing yourself to be alone near your car with a bunch of kids you don't know with no other adults is another big one. But the third, and the really red flag to me, is the guitar. One of the ways predators attract the interest of children is to have something shiny, kid-friendly, and cool like that that will encourage them to wander over into his general sphere and give him a way to open up conversation. I was almost halfway giving him the benefit of the doubt until we got to the guitar.

I agree with Viking Sword that mental illness is also a strong likelihood. However, and this is important, that doesn't preclude or eliminate the issue of predation, nor is it helping this guy manage normally in the world even if there is no overlap with interest in childre. I'm glad you're going to let the cops know and I encourage you, if you see a similar performance again while you're there, to just call 911. Think about it - you're not "wasting" anything if you help the police establish an understanding of what is normal and not so normal about this park and this guy. You could be, in fact, saving a ton of resources, time, money and not least, anguish, if you think about it. You yourself don't have to be judge and jury for this guy, but you can be sure those who do have authority and judgment are aware of a potential issue and can either connect this guy with help, or keep an eye on the area and his activities if he's compelled to continue being inappropriate.
posted by Miko at 5:56 AM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with calling the cops, etc. And - what about those caregivers of the field trip? Why aren't they concerned, or at least getting their charges back onto the playground?
posted by kirst27 at 6:07 AM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just adding one more "call the cops". This guy should not be in a playground doing what he is doing. It also bothers me that the caretakers of the Down syndrome children were not more concerned. They were not doing their job to protect those children.

I am older, not especially paranoid about molesters, but this is way over the top. Do speak to the police about this guy.
posted by mermayd at 6:09 AM on January 21, 2012

the description makes it sound like hes probably guilty of indecent exposure, at least. Which is obviously illegal. Then throw in several layers of creepy, creepy behavior... around children..... AND special needs children.... Any cop listening to your documented, factual account should be on this in seconds.
posted by Jacen at 6:14 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like to believe that there is a place in this world where one can hang naked from parallel bars and play the guitar. But that place is not in the vicinity of children playing. One more vote for creep.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

Also, follow those mama bear instincts, 'cause that's what they are and that's why they're there.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:19 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another vote for cops. The other moms all freezing at the same time + the electric guitar thing clinched it for me. Sounds more to me like he's off his meds than anything else but that can be very dangerous too.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:35 AM on January 21, 2012

I'll add one to the "call the cops" column - I have the police non-emergency number on my cel for just that reason. If you have a parks and rec by-law enforcement line where you live, that's a good one to have on you too. Listen to your your creep radar. Where I live, there are by-laws about adults being unaccompanied by minors at playgrounds, and I have called the police on guys with holes in the pockets of their sweatpants who are obviously fondling themselves through them.
posted by peagood at 6:36 AM on January 21, 2012

I almost always hear people's 'I think that guy was a child molestor' stories and think they are being crazy and insane and just interpreting perfectly normal behaviour as that of a pedo just because it involved a man being somewhere in the vicinity of children.

In this case, however, I believe his behaviour is wildly inappropriate, and you're right to get the police involved. I would be weirded out by a fully clothed adult person butting onto a children's playground to do pull-ups on a bar that little kids were playing on. An adult who is deliberately flouting normal dress codes even for exercise AND doing that is up to something bad. The fact that he was apparently targeting easy marks among the children just adds to that feeling.

There's a problem here -- it may be that he's a predator. It may be that he's mentally ill or developmentally delayed and likes to be around children and doesn't understand proper decorum. It may ultimately be both.

But the cops would be an excellent group of people to involve in figuring out which it is.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:05 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Where I live, adults aren't even permitted by law to enter most playgrounds unless they're escorting a child. You're not crazy, you're awesome - follow those instincts.
posted by Eshkol at 7:16 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with all of the advice above to talk to the cops. I would add, also, that if you know the name of the after-school program that the special needs kiddos attend, you give them a call and let them know as well. Caregivers in a lot of these programs are often untrained, inexperienced, and underpaid, and the fact that they seemed unconcerned that the kids were near his car is alarming. They might need some basic safety strategies spelled out by a supervisor. At the very least, whoever is in charge of the program can warn the workers to keep an eye out for this guy in the neighborhood.
posted by corey flood at 7:25 AM on January 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

Predators get away with acting inappropriately because of exactly what happened here - bystanders are so confused by the boundary crossing that they doubt what they are seeing and their own instincts. Just think of the Penn state case.
posted by yarly at 8:34 AM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Even if he's not a predator, he's an adult behaving inappropriately at a child's playground. If it were teenagers taking over the monkey bars, you wouldn't hesitate to tell them to leave or ask the police to tell them to leave. Let the cops know this is happening.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Incident reported. Cops agreed it was very strange, and have agreed to step up patrols around the parks after school.
posted by dejah420 at 9:04 AM on January 21, 2012 [13 favorites]

A last note- in some cities, such as NYC, it is illegal to be in many of the municipal playgrounds if you are not with a kid. You may want to look into local laws on this in case you want some extra ammo if this happens again to tell the guy his behavior is not ok and report him.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:28 AM on January 21, 2012

Response by poster: Update the second: The pictures I sent match the description of someone reported to be exposing himself to kids in another area. Cops are very excited that one of my pictures has part of a license plate of the car he was driving.

Thanks again guys for giving me the push to report this, it is possible we stopped something bad from happening after all.
posted by dejah420 at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2012 [75 favorites]

Do you know the name of the after-school facility? I would definitely call their office. Caretakers need to be extraordinarily vigilant with kids and doubly so with special needs kids. This isn't to say he was about to molest them there and then, but he's already showed himself not to have any boundaries with kids, and knows how to pull them into his orbit (cornering by the car, and the guitar - seriously it is a common ploy). If I was a parent of a kid with Down's Syndrome, and found out the caretakers were letting my child hang out with a semi-naked strange man on a playground, I'd be livid. It's not only about that specific incident, so much as it is about teaching them boundaries and expected behavior from strangers.

Thanks for noticing it, stepping in for the other kids, and reporting it. This is so not overinflated "stranger danger".
posted by barnone at 9:35 AM on January 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: barnone, I did write down the name from their van, and will be calling the business owner on Monday. That was already on my to-do list.
posted by dejah420 at 9:50 AM on January 21, 2012 [21 favorites]

That's inspiring - you totally managed to be calm & present in the moment, and take note of important details in the midst of an anxiety-provoking moment. Thanks for the updates, and for listening to your spidey senses!
posted by barnone at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

the guys actions were seen as relatively normal by people who doesn't have the same triggers I do

There's also the bystander effect, where the larger the group of bystanders, the less likely someone will intervene. You're looking for confirmation that what's going on is out of line, but so was everyone else there. You take their inaction as acceptance, but they were also looking at your inaction as acceptance, too.

Ignore the inaction of others. If you think something might be wrong, do something, even if it's just to say (not ask, not question, but state categorically) it looks wrong to you. You obviously did the right thing in bringing this to the attention of police. Great job!
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:29 AM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

Eww, eww at this guy! Keep us posted, and good on you for putting the cops on the scent of a possibly dangerous predator.

Even with creepiness aside (and there is SO much creepy) there's no way an adult man should be doing vigorous exercise on equipment built for children, which may not support his weight. I've heard plenty about (often drunk) injuring themselves or breaking equipment by using kid swing sets, etc. and breaking them without even the workout described here.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a huge believer that people massively over-react about stranger danger but in this guys case I'd make a huge exception and react like crazy. This set of so many alarm bells in my head. Ring the cops and report that it happened, if you are there and it happens again, ring them and report it. Document everything times you saw him what he did just in case they need the evidence.
posted by wwax at 6:02 PM on January 21, 2012

So - I worked for a couple years on a multi-national project to help law enforcement catch child predators... and yet I am a fairly liberal guy with kids who doesn't typically worry about them going to the park, etc.

In this case... He was exhibiting very weird behaviour - you did the right thing.

If your law enforcement is actively participating in the project I mentioned above, tips will be fed into active cases - true predators move around and target new areas when they are forced out of one - if there have been tips/arrests/warnings/convictions with an individual before (and there may be an open-investigation based on certain criteria - like his clothing (or lack thereof) and excersice activitives) your tip can feed into a local, national and international system.
posted by jkaczor at 7:33 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

By his behaviour Naked Yoga Guy made it clear that, to him, his desire to interact with the kids was more important than the kids' desire to use the playground equipment as they wished and to play in peace. To me, that is even more of a red flag than the semi-nudity (though that isn't great either). So, yes, you did the right thing.
posted by rjs at 3:51 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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