Cruisin' for a Bustin'

For Adams County deputies, making sex arrests was a walk in the park.

-- report on the arrests of a 42-year-old Commerce City man and a 36-year-old Boulder resident at 3:30 p.m. October 7.

Adams County's anti-cruising operation got under way early last September, when five undercover sheriff's deputies, four men and one woman, began trolling Lafayette Park and Lowell Ponds. Since then, 91 men (no women) have been arrested for illegal sexual activity in the two Adams County parks, which until recently were both featured on the adult website, which highlights parks, public restrooms and other hot spots for quick, anonymous sex across the country and in Europe, Canada and Australia.

Other metro-Denver locales still featured on the site include the second-floor men's room at the Denver Pavilions ("I got my first blow job by a college guy here!"), a public toilet in a park near the Denver Broncos training facility ("I've had great lunch here on a regular basis!") and a men's room in the Cherry Creek Foley's, on the third floor, in the women's lingerie department ("Very cruisy!").

Adams family values: At Lafayette Park, cruisers ignore the sheriff's warning at their own peril.
Mark Manger
Adams family values: At Lafayette Park, cruisers ignore the sheriff's warning at their own peril.
Adams family values: At Lafayette Park, cruisers 
ignore the sheriff's warning at their own peril.
Mark Manger
Adams family values: At Lafayette Park, cruisers ignore the sheriff's warning at their own peril.

Information on the Adams County parks disappeared in December, presumably in response to the crackdown. Up until then, the site had featured maps with specific trails marked by arrows, along with driving directions and tips for avoiding arrest: "Remember, there's nothing illegal about driving through a park. There's nothing illegal about parking in a park. There's nothing illegal about walking down trails in a park. And there's nothing illegal about looking in the eyes of other men in a park. Of course it's illegal to have sex in a park, no matter how deep you go into the bushes, but every one of the 50 states on this site has parks where sex happens. There's something universal and probably even natural about it. If you happen to live in a city where the police won't accept reality, then don't do it where people who don't want to see you can see you, and don't do it with undercover cops. You can figure out who they are. Hint #1: The hunk cruising you is completely out of your league. Hint #2: The stud cruising you doesn't grasp the subtleties of the game. Hint #3: The hunk cruising you suggests something dangerous or out-of-character for the park in question. Hint #4: The stud cruising you keeps at it well after you've realized something is not right and spurned him."

Despite these cautions, the studs and hunks of the Adams County park patrol had little trouble making undercover sex busts.

The deputies typically worked in pairs, with one cruising the parking lot while the other worked the trails. They made up to six arrests per hour in Lafayette Park, operating like an assembly line. All of the arrests were made in broad daylight, generally between noon and five p.m. (Many of the men arrested were on lunch break or driving home from work and told deputies they had just stopped off in the park for a quickie.)

The 91 arrestees were charged with some combination of indecent exposure, creating a public nuisance and unlawful sexual contact, all misdemeanors or petty offenses. Most of the men arrested in the sting, which some local and national gay-rights groups refer to as "Bag-a-Fag," were fingerprinted and booked on site, then issued a summons and released on their own recognizance without having to go to jail or post bail.

According to Steve Bernard, assistant district attorney for Adams County, thus far, none of the men have chosen to take their cases to trial. "We're seeing a lot of plea dispositions, where we stipulate that if they plead to public indecency or disorderly conduct, they don't have to register as sex offenders," he says.

The men ranged in age from 30 to 71, with home addresses in Golden, Lakewood, Boulder, Commerce City, Thornton and Denver. They were almost all white.

Cross-referencing personal information from their arrest reports with Colorado marriage and divorce records shows that of the men arrested, more than a third -- 31 -- are currently some woman's husband.

"Anytime you have these sorts of sting operations, the headlines always read ŒGay Men Arrested Cruising for Sex,' when in reality, a lot of these men wouldn't necessarily identify themselves as gay, either because they're married or they identify themselves as primarily heterosexual," says Denise de Percin, executive director of Equality Colorado's anti-violence program.

"These stings create the misperception that the gay community is hypersexualized and deviant. And I really resent the implication that this behavior is a threat to children in Adams County. There's no rational basis for making a direct connection between pedophiles and men who are making bad decisions about where they have sex."

The suspect walked up to me and said, "Hey." I said, "Hi." He asked me if I was a cop. I laughed and said, "No, are you?" He laughed and then said, "Can I get a blowjob then?" I assumed he was asking me if I wanted to engage in oral sex. I shrugged my shoulders and he began to unzip his pants. I then placed him under arrest.

-- arrest of a 49-year-old Denver man at 3 p.m. September 6.

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