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Arrests made for soliciting at park

The Internet sex sting conducted by the Waynesville Police Department was part of an undercover operation dubbed “Summer Heat,” which captured headlines last week for the more prominent part of the sting — arresting men soliciting gay sex in the public bathrooms at the Waynesville Recreation Park.

Like the Internet sex sting, undercover officers working the restroom area were careful to avoid entrapment. They simply hung around the restrooms and waited to be approached. They were careful not to broach the subject of sex first.

“They would just literally walk up to you,” said Detective Tyler Trantham, one of the undercovers working the operation. “There were no certain hand gestures or signals. They just started a conversation and the conversation led down that road. We waited for them to open the door. They controlled the conversation and pointed it down that road.”

Trantham and the other undercovers that helped with the operation were wired to record what the suspects were saying. A surveillance team was nearby and would move in to make the arrest once the language clearly met the threshold for solicitation of sex in a public place.

Apparently, public park restrooms nationwide are a known place to hook up for anonymous gay sex. In this case, reports of suspicious activity came in from the public and from recreation center staff. There were two bathrooms involved: one by the ball fields and walking track near the rec center and one off West Marshall Street near the tennis courts. A total of seven suspects were involved in the bust. Trantham said he hopes the activity will subside following the sting, but the department plans to keep surveillance on the area.

“We have kids playing in the park. They should not have to worry about stumbling into people soliciting sex,” said Police Chief Bill Hollingsed.

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