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Stings at 2 parks target solicitation

Undercover deputies plan random patrols after complaints about sexual activity at public parks.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Pasco County sheriff's deputies have begun periodic sting operations at two county parks in light of complaints about gay men picking one another up and even having sex in the parks.

The operations will take place randomly at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey and near Robert Rees Memorial park near Green Key Beach.

"We might only catch 1 percent of what's actually going on. But we are going to be consistent about doing it," sheriff's Lt. J.P. Jackson said. "There won't be a pattern to it. They won't know when we are going to be there."

Jackson said the stings will consist of one or two undercover officers who visit the park and wait to be solicited by other men.

"We dress our young guys up and put them out as bait," Jackson said.

The plan seems to be working so far. Sheriff's reports show that deputies have visited each park at least once this month and have been approached each time.

A plainclothes deputy at Green Key Beach on April 12 walked up to talk with a 49-year-old man. The man exposed himself and began masturbating in front of the deputy, reports stated.

An undercover deputy working at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park on Friday was approached by a 62-year-old man who started a conversation. The man suddenly grabbed the deputy inappropriately without warning, according to reports.

The man was arrested for simple battery.

Jackson said the stings could last indefinitely.

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