Scores of people reported being victims of upskirting last year, despite coronavirus restrictions limiting the amount of time people could spend outside their homes, figures show.
Data from police forces in England and Wales shows girls as young as 14 were routinely among those targeted by people attempting to take a sexual image of them without consent.
The overwhelming majority of incidents involved female victims, although a 16-year-old boy was among the handful of male victims.
Figures from 33 police forces found there were 196 allegations of upskirting during 2020, with offences reported to have taken place in a range of public places such as supermarkets, parks and on public transport.
This was despite restrictions during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic last year effectively forcing people to stay at home, avoid public transport and shops, and reduce social contact.
Gina Martin, who successfully campaigned for a change in the law to make upskirting a specific criminal offence in 2019 after two men took an explicit picture of her at a music festival, said: “These numbers show that sexual assault prevails even when society comes to a standstill.
“Upskirting is a covert type of assault that benefits from busy crowds as a distraction, but equally benefits from quiet or private areas where there are a lack of people to witness it, so I’m not surprised at these numbers, but I am disappointed.
“Time and time again we are shown that sexual assault is endemic and upskirting is only one part of that.”
Younger people were more likely to be victims, according to the 10 police forces that had age-specific data.
Some 44 of the 96 incidents from those forces involved people aged 10-19, while 26 were aged 20-29.
Three incidents were reported to police involving two female and one male victim in their 60s.
According to the police forces with relevant data, 131 incidents involved female victims and five involved males.
Some 18 allegations resulted in a criminal charge or other action, according to forces with relevant data.
Incidents included a male taking pictures up a 14-year-old girl’s skirt in Cambridgeshire in October, a 26-year-old woman in West Yorkshire in July who noticed a man crouched behind her trying to take a picture up her skirt while she was out shopping, and another victim in the Greater Manchester area who caught a man trying to upskirt her while using an escalator.
The figures were obtained under freedom of information laws by the PA news agency.