COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Imagine someone coming up to you in a public place and simply exposing themselves to you. It's a disturbing thought, but police say these kinds of cases are a big problem in the Columbia area right now, and catching the flasher can often be the big challenge.
Three cases of indecent exposure have been reported in the past nine days.
Police say the flashers expose themselves because they get sexual pleasure from the reaction they get from the people they surprise.
Investigators say people are often unable to give a good description of the culprit, making him tough to find.
"Part of the problem, as I stated, is many times the victim looks at the body parts instead of the face, so when we go for the sketch artist or a picture, we don't have one," said investigator Stephan Narewski with the Columbia police special victims unit.
Police say if you see a flasher, snapping a picture will help immensely in the investigation.
Penalties for flashers who are caught can include being listed as a registered sex offender and getting up to three years in prison.
Chief Scott offers the following safety tips:
1. Be vigilant at all times.
2. Know your surroundings
3. Report suspicious people to law enforcement
4. Make sure you have your cell phone handy with 9-1-1 on a speed dial in case of an emergency
5. Use caution when speaking with strangers who may approach you
6. Use caution when approaching strangers
7. Do NOT try to confront a stranger, especially during a suspected criminal act