Members of the public have been urged to report indecent exposure and other anti-social crimes following an online debate regarding an incident in the city centre.

Chazii Osborn told how on Friday at around 11.30am, she left Hendra playpark with her two-year old and baby, and walked down the Leats towards the city centre.

En route she passed a man, “roughly in his 50s, a bit overweight and unkempt looking, standing against the wall looking to the water, watching his phone whilst masturbating”.

She added: “It was broad daylight, and he was making absolutely no attempt to hide it. Normally I’d say something, but I was carrying my toddler and pushing the baby, and was not in a position to defend them if he was to turn aggressive.”

Having posted it to more than one Truro Facebook group, she found people claimed to know the man in question, and that he behaved in this way regularly.

“I want to know if other people had experienced anything from this man in or around Victoria gardens, so I can show the police the full extent of the issue,” said Chazii.

There was also an extended discussion about the best course of action – whether to report the matter to the police or to Truro’s Anti-Social Behaviour officer or, more worryingly, suggesting direct action of a violent nature.

Truro’s Anti-Social Behaviour officer Steve Lennon said this was definitely a case for a 999 call. “It is a crime in progress - and if people are saying they know who this is, they should be reporting that to the police,” he said.

“Members of the public are entitled to enjoy their own company, especially in a thoroughfare leading to a play park. If someone has their genitals out in public, it is with intent to cause harassment.

“I am a case worker with the local authority, not a response officer. I am not always in a position when I can go and deal with something like this.

“When you call 999, calls are triaged in order of priority. If the operator thinks you should call 101 instead, they will tell you.”

He added that he did not encourage “vigilante justice”, which would not change anything in the long-term. “Leave it to be dealt with through the proper channels. Only that way can it be brought to a resolution, whether by a managed move or injunction.

“Reporting has dropped off recently. Just because people think nothing is being done, doesn’t mean it’s true. There’s nothing worse than going to court with woolly evidence, and not getting the right outcome because you didn’t have what you needed.”

A Devon and Cornwall spokesperson said: “In the situation described, it would be appropriate for someone to call 999. The incident was ongoing and there was a potential public protection risk.”