Upskirting is a relatively new term that describes the act of using a hidden camera to photograph up women's skirts in public areas like shopping malls and grocery stores.
Erin Dolgan, a licensed clinical therapist who's worked with sex offenders in Colorado for 16 years, says upskirting is on the rise in the Denver area.
"It's as serious as a felony rape or any other sexual offense or sexual assault," Dolgan said. "They are able to do this secretively and because of that, we don't know all of the cases."
While Dolgan and the National Center for Victims of Crime can't provide statistics, both agree there is an increase in upskirting because of the increased use and availability of cell phone cameras.
"The idea that they can perpetrate this over and over again without anyone saying anything to them gives them power to the idea that 'I can do this. I'm not really hurting anyone,'" Dolgan said.
Dolgan told 9Wants to Know some sex offenders have admitted to upskirting hundreds of times.
9Wants to Know found a case in Littleton where a man is facing misdemeanor charges for secretly photographing women's intimate areas at two grocery stores.
Carl Houpt admits in court documents he spent between two to three months upskirting. He was caught at a King Soopers thanks to alert security who captured the crime on camera.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is working the case.
"We were able to identify two different victims," Sgt. Ron Hanavan said.
Dolgan also told 9Wants to Know upskirting can be a gateway to more sex crimes.
"These guys aren't getting caught the first time the second time or the 50th time. So it continues to build until their arousal continues to build where they're want to see more and more," he said.
The consequences for upskirting vary from state to state. In Colorado, upskirting often results in misdemeanor charges. A conviction on a misdemeanor sex offense would not require a perpetrator to register as a sex offender.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)