PELLA, Iowa — Investigators in Pella are warning the public of man seen on surveillance video taking pictures of young women without their knowledge.
Police Chief Robert Bokinsky calls the person's behavior suspicious.
“As covertly as he possibly could, took photos of them unbeknownst to them, it seemed to be very creepy,” he says.
Surveillance video recorded from the West End Auto body shop obtained by Channel 13 shows a driver parking his car for a brief moment, sneaking out his digital camera, and then snapping at least two pictures of a pair of high school-aged girls jogging in front of the car on Friday morning.
Police are now looking for the man witnesses describe as being in his 30s, wearing a hat and sunglasses. Investigators believe he was driving a 2008 silver Honda Accord.
The department posted a word of caution to its Facebook page on Friday night. The post received more than 600 shares, gaining the attention of thousands like Monroe resident Katie Dolejsa.
"You know he has intentions if that's what he's doing. That's the worst part. You know he's around and you don't know where else he's going," she says.
Police believe the driver left town, and they say finding him could be nearly impossible; the video didn’t clearly capture the car's license plate. Investigators have found more than 530 cars in the state that match the description of the man’s vehicle. However, two of those cars were found in Pella, but the drivers did not match police’s description.
The suspicious activity comes on the heels of the disappearance of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. The University of Iowa student went missing from a neighboring county more than a week ago.
College student Ashlynn Johnson says both incidents have prompted her to carry a pocket knife and pepper spray.
"Just as a woman, I want to feel protected, I don't want to feel scared to walk around in my own town," Johnson says.
Pella police say the man they are looking for isn’t doing anything illegal, but they want to try and stop him before he does.
“Crimes are committed, they just don't happen,” says Bokinsky. “There is usually a period of surveillance or planning that goes into that.”
Police have turned over the video to the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office--the department aiding in the investigation of Tibbetts--out of an abundance of caution in case there is a connection. Anyone with information regarding the suspicious motorist is asked to call the Pella Police Department.