Bilerico Report

45 men were arrested in a cruising sting. In 2017.

LGBTQ Nation

45 men were arrested in a cruising sting operation in Martin County, Florida.

Police set up hidden cameras in two known cruising areas for two months. The cameras also caught license plate numbers so the police could start making arrests.

Sheriff William Snyder says police had to set up this sting because there are children at these locations, and of course every space needs to be set aside for children.

“My first concern when I heard about this behavior was for the safety of the families using that area,” Snyder said. His worries were confirmed by one close call recorded by the cameras.

“Right after one or two of these sexual encounters, a family uninvolved in any behavior happened to just walk by,” Snyder said.

I’m sure it isn’t agreeable for someone with kids to walk in on public sex, but that doesn’t make it a “safety” issue. Unless a gay guy stabbed one of the families, then we’re talking about unseemly behavior.

But when we’re talking about gay people having sex, straight people’s heads explode. Snyder didn’t even notice that there’s no direct connection between safety and accidentally seeing gay sex, it’s just that gay sex is terrible and disgusting so clearly people will be scarred for life if they see it.

The article also notes that this has been a cruising area for years now. If the worst “safety” issue is someone accidentally walking in, then maybe the issue isn’t really safety?

Moreover, if someone went there to beat up the queers, would those cruising feel comfortable calling police? If a group of people decided to mug the men, then would the police have been concerned about their safety? The adversarial approach to men who are looking for a little loving in all the wrong places only makes people less safe, but then it appears like only some people’s safety matters.

And if anyone was concerned with safety here, then maybe the local news wouldn’t have run the mugshots of those arrested as if this were 1976. The harassment that will generate alone is probably far more than anything these folks did to others.

Safety issues aside, there is a real issue when it comes to sharing public space. Considering how public cruising areas have been set up in so many cities, and in so many countries, and for so long, it shows that there’s a real need for this sort of space and there are ways to manage the issues that brings up. If these specific areas were actually a problem because of the children (and not just in the “children could be anywhere” sense), then a uniformed officer could have been sent in.

The problem with that idea, though, is that it’s really too effective.

“The problem we have is because it’s so open, the people that are engaged in this behavior see us coming, so traditional law enforcement methods didn’t work.”

So the people cruising would leave if the police were there? How in the world is instantly stopping the targetted behavior proof that these methods don’t work? They could have sent uniformed officers in regularly for a few months instead of using spy equipment, and word would have spread to stop going to these specific areas.

But then the goal is to arrest gay men and put fill up sex offender registries (because men who have sex with adults and go to secluded areas to do it clearly should not be allowed to live near schools or hold jobs). In that sense, Snyder has a point – hidden cameras result in more arrests.

And Snyder said here that the police are going to put cameras up in more areas to arrest more people as new cruising areas pop up.

I’m willing to buy that children might walk in on one specific cruising area if it’s poorly placed. But it strains credulity to hear that there is no area in the entire county that isn’t crawling with teeny-boppers.

Public cruising generates some real problems that need to be addressed, but making arrests isn’t the answer. Set up a real alternative and most of the problem will be solved. The folks who go to cruising sites aren’t trying to cause problems.

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