Resident Michael Rajner says the male sex problem at Colohatchee Park has reached “a boiling point” and called on the city to do more.
“I ask that you take some action,” said Rajner at the April 12 commission meeting.
For years, Colohatchee has been known as a place where gay men regularly cruise and engage in sex, both in the park, the parking lot and in the park’s bathroom.
Recently, Rajner said multiple children were almost exposed to sexual acts. One mother, he said, had to scream to prevent her son from going into a bathroom while it was being used for sex.
He also reiterated a request that the city suspend dog park fees until the sex problem is fixed. “Its really upsetting that you have to pay to walk past [men cruising for sex].”
Rajner’s call for action comes on the heels of his successful request to have ads for Squirt.org, a gay hookup app, removed from the eco bins. Rajner said the ads should be removed because children were exposed to them and they were not an appropriate image for the city. The bins are privately owned but the city can reject ads if it chooses because they are located on city property.
Later on Twitter, Rajner posted, “Ironic @WiltonManorsCty commissioners discuss #restrooms in #NC but ignore #restroom issue in own city park.” Rajner was referring to the ban on city employee travel to North Carolina that the commission unanimously passed on April 12. The North Carolina law prohibits individuals from using bathrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Sal Torre, president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors, criticized Rajner, in an article he wrote for The Gazette published on April 6, for wanting the ads removed.
Torre labeled Rajner as the “morality police” and said Rajner’s arguments was reminiscent of “right-leaning Catholic League and other groups claiming to possess the moral high ground in American Society over the past few decades.”
But Rajner defended himself, saying the ads go way beyond simple morality and encourage men to have sex in public places like Colohatchee, illegal under Florida law.
On its website, Squirt.org claims to help users find the “hottest gay cruising and hookup spots. Whether you prefer gay sex clubs, parks, washrooms, hotels or bars, our site will not disappoint.
It doesn’t matter if your fantasy is a gay cowboy, a glory hole, a gay bear, a threesome or just steamy chat with gay men. Squirt.org has everything you’re looking for.”
“Squirt.org is a website for consenting gay and bi men to meet other men. The content on our site is generated by our users. The cruising listing, similar to the cruising listings that Yelp.com have, is for people to exchange information and it is their decision how they use the shared information, where they meet and how they connect,” wrote Andrew Nolan, marketing and communications manager for Pink Triangle Press.
Commissioner Julie Carson acknowledged that the city needs to do more.
“It is a very, very tough problem and I am again surprised that a city with the resources of Wilton Manors cannot address the problem adequately, and by adequately I think it should stop. I am there regularly, five or six days a week, the days that its open, and the continual illegal activity is stunning.”
Carson said the city has taken some steps, including installing a partition between two urinals in the bathroom. But it was torn out and a stronger one had to be installed. “We’re being pro-active but the people we have to deal with are very, very persistent,” Carson said.
Carson said she would like to post a sign at Colohatchee stating the state law outlawing sexual acts in public parks. She also suggested arrests. “The biggest and best way to address the problem is to arrest offenders. It’s just not cool. The answer is not to close the park. The answer is to enforce the law.”
To address the problem, Chief Paul O’Connell said his department implemented the Colohatchee Park Action Plan from Jan. 2 to Feb. 11, 2016.
“The Plan was a combination of uniform and plain clothes officers working in different roles to thwart sexual conduct in the public park and to ‘spread the word’ that inappropriate sexual conduct, along with any other crimes encountered, will not be tolerated in this park,” reads a memo from the police department.
The memo also cites 33 officer hours were devoted to the plan and resulted in two arrests for lewd and lascivious open sexual conduct, one for cocaine, two warnings for speeding, two traffic violation warnings and a citation for driving with a suspended driver’s license.
From the start of February through the end of March, a decoy police car was randomly placed at Colohatchee and daily foot patrols were instituted. “WMPD is in process of developing a new operational plan which will be implemented in the near future. We will not comment on plan particulars so as to maintain operational integrity.”
O’Connell also cited Easterlin Park in Oakland Park, Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek and Quiet Waters in Deerfield Beach as having similar problems. “WMPD acknowledges that more needs to be done and we are committed to it.”