The Interrogation Room: How Do I Deal With a Flasher?

This week we’re introducing a new column—The Interrogation Room—where we’ll answer reader questions about cops and crime. If you’ve got something you want answered, send an email to, or post it here in the comments. We’ll typically do these on Friday, but we forgot last week. So here it is:

This week’s question comes courtesy of reader Silver:

I’d like to know what I should do if I am confronted by a flasher. Should I point and laugh? Can I pepper spray him? Take a photo? Is there anything I can to to change his behavior, or will he always re-offend?Are flashers likely to escalate to assault or rape? What kind of crime is flashing, and how seriously do the police take it?

In the last year, a flasher has been in spotted in the Sunset Hill area of Ballard several times (hence Silver’s question).

The most recent incident was on September 3rd, when a woman jogging near 34th NW and NW 70th around 5:45am spotted a nude man laying on his back on the ground.

The man was described as a white male, 50 years old, tall, and nude except for a baseball cap.

As it turns out, the woman had seen the man under similar circumstances about a year earlier, although the last time he was apparently doing something a bit more lewd.

We’ve heard about other possible incidents like this in Ballard, and they also happen with some regularity at Greenlake.

So what do you do when you spot somebody exposing themselves?

SPD spokesman Mark Jamieson says the first step is calling 911. “Reporting it and having the police involved is one way to change behavior,” Jamieson says. “Not reporting it, not having the police involved will certainly embolden the suspect to continue his behavior.  The police take these crimes seriously.”

Another department source says exposers typically don’t escalate to committing violent behavior, but it’s probably best to avoid getting close enough to take a picture of an exposer.

Police don’t endorse the idea of pepper spraying a flasher, but they didn’t tell us that it’s necessarily a bad idea.

And it sure would be funny, wouldn’t it?


If you’ve got a question about police or crime, leave it in the comments or send us an email.