Cruisin' for a Bustin'

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

But the cruising at Cheesman has a distinctly different flavor than the cruising in Adams County. The gay men who hang out in the central Denver park are generally sharper-dressed and drive nicer cars than the men cruising Commerce City, many of whom look like they buy their clothes off the rack at Sears. They look more like NASCAR dads than party boys, and they appear to be way more in the closet than out.

The Cheesman Park boys openly display non-sexual affection -- hugs and arms thrown around shoulders. They blast music from their cars, talk and laugh. All in all, they seem more comfortable with themselves and their sexuality than do the lurkers in Lafayette Park.

"Denver has their strategies, we have ours," Dixon says of Adams County. "Some people have said we're targeting the gay community, and that's not true at all. We're not passing judgment on anyone's sexual orientation. The only group we're targeting is people who come to our parks for illegal sex. We're just trying to make our parks safe and enjoyable for everyone to use, and our message is, if you're thinking about coming to our parks for sex, you'd better think again."

Matt Collins
Matt Collins

Not all of the sexual activity targeted by the undercover sting was gay in nature, he adds. The female deputy arrested six men -- one who slid his hand up her thigh while she was sitting at a picnic table, the other five after they exposed themselves to her off-trail.

"It seems that at least some of these men weren't coming to the park for one kind of sex or the other; they were just coming for sex -- man, woman, it didn't matter," Dixon says. "It's not a homosexual issue or a heterosexual issue; it's an illegal-sex issue."

Working Lafayette Park in an undercover capacity I was sitting at a picnic table approximately ten feet from the pedestrian trail. The defendant sat next to me at the picnic table and stated he had been to the park in the past and stated he was at the park to find some company. He leaned into my body and placed his hand on the inside middle of my left thigh. His hand continued in an upward direction to my genital area. I then placed him under arrest.

-- arrest of 64-year-old Thornton man by female undercover deputy at 1:30 p.m. October 23.

Today a metal sign outside Lafayette Park warns, "This park is under surveillance by the Adams County Sheriff's Office."

Sometimes, at least. But not on the afternoon of February 18, another gorgeous day when early-afternoon temperatures hit 70 degrees. A tall, short-haired man in his early thirties walks briskly through the muddy parking lot, trying to ignore the driver of the rusted white Toyota Celica creeping alongside him, crunching gravel at five miles per hour. The driver of this piece-of-shit hatchback is in his forties, wearing sunglasses, his brown hair crudely feathered in a style that wasn't cool even in the '70s.

He hisses out his open window and makes the universal sign for "blow job" by repeatedly thrusting his tongue into the inside meat of his cheek.

The Celica driver is definitely violating the Adams County park regulation that prohibits creating a general nuisance, defined as "any activity which causes annoyance or discomfort to any other persons utilizing this facility." That ordinance is posted on a second new warning sign in the parking lot.

But the cruising action is still hot and heavy. Parked in the lot at midday are fifteen cars, trucks and delivery vans with lone men sitting in the driver's seats, watching, waiting. Getting no play from the pedestrian, the guy in the white Celica makes the rounds of the parked cars, conversing briefly with several occupants. Another man gets out of his car and goes into the back of a delivery van with its driver.

On the concrete footpath, more lone men pace back and forth for a couple hundred yards in either direction of the parking lot, making furtive eye contact and occasionally pairing off to go down in the weeds or the woods. The only park users not blatantly cruising are cyclists who speed by, oblivious to the secretive rites under way all around them. No children are in danger, because no children are there.

Walking through the maze of weeds off-trail is like flushing quail. Several men pop out of tramped-down alcoves to make eyes at a man walking alone. Two more are interrupted in the midst of a makeout session. Seeing a reporter's notebook, they take off, running in opposite directions, perhaps mistaking the man for a cop about to issue them a summons.

Back in the parking lot, the atmosphere is less than festive despite the bright sunshine. Some men stand in the mud, conversing in conspiratorial tones through car windows. Others sit quietly in their vehicles, casting the eager but wary glances of the shamed.

"When the weather warms up for good, we'll be keeping a closer eye on them," says Dixon. "We're taking a stand in our parks."

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