COM Aquatics' "No Picture" Policy More Heavily Enforced For Childrens' Safety

COM Aquatics' "No Picture" Policy More Heavily Enforced For Childrens' Safety

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA-  Before kids makes a splash at the aquatics centers in town, parents will have to put away the camera. A policy in place by the City of Midland Aquatics prevents any picture taking at their facility.

"We are restricting them some ways and we hate to be but it is for the safety of the kids," according to Executive Director Brad Swendig.

The policy has been in place for a while, but now workers are trying to enforce it more, especially because of some risky situations that have been popping up recently.  

Swendig, who's also a father, recalled one in Midland where a man was standing outside the fence taking pictures of kids with a zoom lens.

"And I know of one other where the guy was supposedly a professional photographer. I saw the pictures, they were inappropriate," he added.

He told NewsWest 9 the man was trying to offer his services at COM Aquatics in Midland but once Swendig flipped through his portfolio, he saw it was comprised of only flat-chested girls and skinny boys around 13 years-old.

He recalled that first the kids were standing in their suits, then there was a series of images of them hunched over in more compromising ways, and that's when Swendig didn't have the tolerance to see more, and sent the man on his way. 

On top of that Swendig said the FBI even contacted him for help in an out of state child pornography case where the victim was traced back to a COM Aquatics center. Luckily the suspect wasn't, but in any case, that's why the policy exists.  

"We just want to make sure it's a safe place, it's a fun place. It's not somewhere where you have to worry about that kind of thing, and I think that's what we do," he said.

Christina Hutton, who's a mother of six living in Odessa agrees with the policy, especially with the ease in accessing content on social media.

"I want to be able to capture my child's moment, but I don't want no one else to be taking pictures of my child and then you don't know what kind of thoughts or what they're feeling and what they're thinking. You just gotta be careful all the way around," she said.

But some parents like Robert Chabarilla think documenting the children could prove to be more of a help than a danger.

"If something happens or somebody has a complaint about someone looking at your kid playing with your kid or something, then you can have proof that its either happening or not," he said. But I'm a pretty trustworthy guy. I guess I wouldn't suspect that anybody would be doing any kind of child pornography or try to get any type of weird pictures of my kid," he said.

There aren't many signs publicizing the rule, but it's not going away. At the end of the day officials just feel it's better to be too safe than sorry.

"They are your kids after all," Swendig said