Public Park Cruising Not As Big A Problem As Titillating News Stories Would Have You Believe

Warm Sands. Virgin Active gyms. Royal-ish grounds. The number of places men are supposedly cruising for sex will, if the veracity of news reports are to be believed, soon outnumber the world’s safe zones. But that’s all a big crock of sensationalism! Can you believe local media might have a hand in overselling how often dudes are getting arrested for toe-tapping in the woods?

Qnotes reveals how “one Charlotte news station helped to perpetuate the myth of gay men as sexual predators.” As if we needed an assist from the local news, who I already blame for letting me get wet when there was only supposed to be sunshine.

The historic, cultural prejudice and bigotry against gay men — often painting them as sick and mentally ill, as the 1958 Inglewood film does — made a Feb. 22 news report by WBTV’s Steve Crump all the more damaging. Armed with nothing more than anonymous online postings from a hook-up website, Crump took to southwest Charlotte’s James Boyce Park to interview concerned parents and community members. “Officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department are looking into a troubling new hot spot for anonymous sex,” Crump reported in his story, entitled “Internet site links Charlotte to gay sex” on WBTV’s website. “Police say men are meeting up for intimate encounters at a neighborhood park popular with children.”

[…] Following their initial report, WBTV aired another story after County Commissioner James publicly questioned how recreation officials were dealing with “sexual predators” and the “moral scourge” in Mecklenburg County parks. James claimed the parks had become home to “homos-xual infestations” and that the police still “arrest about 250 homos-xuals a year.”

250?! That sounds like a lot more than the zero arrests police in Northern California have made on gay public park cruisers. But wait a second. Do public records back up the myth that gay men are just walking up and down dirt paths and hanging out next to oaks and maples?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) crime data tracking back to Jan. 1, 2011 showed no reported incidents or calls for service related to public indecency or other sex-related crimes within a half-mile of the Boyce Park area. In fact, records dating back to Jan. 1, 2009, showed only three calls for service for indecent exposure, though there were no reported incidents or arrests for the same.

[…] Following WBTV’s report, qnotes decided to do what Crump and his colleagues chose not to. We immediately undertook an investigation of arrests and charges for solicitation of a crime against nature and requested information from CMPD for all of 2010 and 2011 through the end of February. According to CMPD’s Rob Tufano, a total of 325 people were charged in 2010 and 2011 with soliciting a crime against nature. Of the total, only 69 were men. Forty-seven men were arrested and charged, and the remainder were issued citations. qnotes further requested the public synopsis for each of the 47 case numbers provided to us by CMPD officials. After reviewing each, an obvious trend became clear. The majority (32 of 47) of cases were related to prostitution or narcotics activity, including several specifically linked to CMPD-led prostitution and narcotics investigations.

Only 15 cases involved men charged with a non-prostitution-, non-drug-related solicitation of a crime against nature. Five occurred at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport overlook on Old Dowd Rd., another five at an interstate rest area, three at Kilborne Park in east Charlotte, one at a hotel or motel and one on N. Tryon St.

Though to be fair, with all those Borders stores closing, your neighborhood sex fiends might be making their way to the parks in bigger numbers this spring. Or, you know, everyone has moved on to Grindr and no longer needs tree cover to complete the deed.

[Q Notes; photo via]