Undercover police officers arrested 12 men in July on public lewdness related charges in a section of a Delaware state park outside Rehoboth Beach that’s known as a gay male cruising area.
According to a July 28 announcement by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the men range in age from 49 to 82. They were charged with an assortment of criminal violations, including offensive touching, criminal solicitation, lewdness, indecent exposure and loitering to engage in or solicit sex.
The announcement says the arrests took place in the Wolfe Neck parking area near the Junction & Breakwater Trail, a six-mile long trail along the southwestern side of Cape Henlopen State Park that connects Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. The trail was built on land formerly used as the path for a railroad track.
“This operation is a response to a serious and longstanding problem with lewd and indecent public behavior at Wolfe Neck,” said Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Police Chief Wayne Kline in a statement. “Such behavior will not be tolerated in a public area within a Delaware State Park,” he said.
“DNREC has received many complaints from the public about this type of activity at the Wolfe Neck location,” the park agency’s statement says. “DNREC’s continuing campaign to prevent public lewdness has made use of both uniformed and plainclothes officers and will continue to do so.”
DNREC spokesperson Michael Globetti declined to say whether the men were caught in an area frequented by passersby or in secluded areas out of sight from the public.
The Junction and Breakwater Trail is listed in the site Men4sexnow.com as a “cruisy parking lot and nearby woods.”
Delaware attorney John Brady, who won election as the Sussex County Clerk of the Peace and who’s gay, said he’s representing two of the men arrested in the anti-lewdness crackdown. He said most of the arrests have been made by a young undercover park ranger who poses as someone cruising for sex.
“This is a rookie ranger who got picked for this and I’m not sure he was properly trained,” Brady said.
He said that although the arrested men in most cases have the option of pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge and receiving only a fine, it’s important for them to obtain legal representation. According to Brady, under Delaware law, two convictions within three years of certain public sex-related offenses such as indecent exposure could result in someone having to register for life as a sex offender even if he was attempting to find another consenting adult as a sex partner.
The announcement issued by DNREC says each of the 12 arrested men were released on a criminal summons and must appear before the Justice of the Peace Court or the Court of Common Pleas, which are located in Georgetown, Del. It lists their ages as 49, 50, 52, 55, 61, 63, 64, 64, 72, 74, 77 and 82.
Seven live in Rehoboth Beach, two live in other towns in Delaware, two are from New York and one resides in Pennsylvania, the statement says.
“They face punishment ranging from a year in jail and fines up to $2,300 for a Class A misdemeanor; of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,150 for a Class B misdemeanor; up to 30 days in jail and a $575 fine for unclassified misdemeanor, and up to one-year probation and a $345 fine for a violation,” the statement says.