Dozen Men Arrested Utica, N.Y., Police Park Sex Sting
A dozen men ranging in age from 47 to 79 years old have been arrested in Utica, N.Y. after an undercover operation in a local park. Police allege that they were prompted to take action by several complaints by the public that the park had become a cruising ground for gay sex.
Utica, a city of 63,000, is located in a valley amidst the rolling mountains of Central New York. Roscoe Conkling Park is part of a sprawling recreational area that includes the city’s zoo. It offers scenic views of the city.
"We were fielding a lot of complaints from people in the community who were driving by or jogging by and saw people doing lewd acts," Utica’s police chief, told Syracuse.com, the online news service of the (Utica) Post-Standard. "We’ve had this problem for several years, in this same area."
Officers reported finding blankets, underwear, other clothing and miscellaneous items in the area. The police set up a sting whereby an undercover officer walked around the park, where he "was approached numerous times by men, who would then expose themselves and masturbate. On several occasions the suspect grabbed the officer in a sexual manner while propositioning him."
Of the men arrested, Police Chief Williams said, "It’s shocking. The sad part is some of these people have families. I feel bad for the family members."
Syracuse.com included in its report the names, ages and cities of the men who were arrested. The Utica police department posted photos and other identifying information for the men on its Facebook page.
None of the men have been convicted of any crimes in association with the sting; the public posting of their identities, while legal, follows a number of other similar incidents that have been making waves in the LGBT community.
In New York City a few years ago, a group of men met with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office after they were arrested at adult establishments and accused of "loitering for the purpose of prostitution." EDGE reported that one undercover cop was "charming and persistent" and offered to pay for sex before arresting the other man.
A controversy erupted a few months ago in Southern California after Manhattan Beach’s police department published mug shots, names and birth dates of men caught in an undercover operation in a beach restroom.
Several years ago, Detroit police were accused of a sting operation in which they would target gay men at Rouge Park. Several times, the men arrested claimed the police tried to shake them down for a bribe so as not to be arrested. The City of Detroit eventually had to provide a $170,000 settlement to the men arrested.
Even the arrest of notorious homophobic GOP Utah U.S. Sen. Larry Craig in a Minneapolis restroom in 2007 was perceived as an unfair sting. EDGE reported that "many activists reluctantly came to his defense, squaring their indignation with broader concerns over the proper role of law enforcement and nuances of bathroom sex lingo."
Craig was arrested after tapping his show from his own stall in the direction of the undercover officer’s stall. "Is moving your foot up and down a signal of encouragement?" asked one such activist.