MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - The Martin County Sheriff’s Office announced the results of a two-month operation targeting people having public sex in areas frequented by families and children.
In Operation Mangrove, Sheriff William Snyder says 45 men will be arrested for lewd and lascivious acts and public exposure. Twenty-one men have been arrested so far, and Snyder says the others should be arrested in the coming days.
One of those men is already a sex offender, according to Snyder.
Snyder says detectives received complaints from beach goers at Bob Graham Beach, and park users at Joe’s River Park, that they saw naked men having sex along the boardwalk.
“We have very clear and graphic, compelling video evidence of these crimes,” Snyder said.
All 45 men, he says, were captured committing the sex acts by a covert camera.
“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.”
While this is an issue Snyder says has been ongoing for years, now, he says they have the proper resources and equipment to properly document the crimes.
The cameras captured more than deputies bargained for. The men were identified by the license plates on their cars.
“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.
Through the investigation, Snyder says his detectives found multiple ads on Craigslist, attracting men to the public areas specifically to engage in sex acts.
“I think that this is a subculture of people who have their own methodologies for meeting each other. They seem to have their own verbal, non-verbal cues that let them know that they’re both there for the same reason,” Snyder said.
Snyder said the investigations will still continue, and at more undisclosed locations. “I hope to stop the behavior.”
Snyder also expects clean up crews with the parks department will focus on making sure the park is clean and safe for families to continue to visit.
“The activity was so prevalent and over a long period of time, the area really needs to be cleaned.”