Some men go to Queenstown Park, police say, for more than a stroll along the pathways through the woods. More than two dozen routinely show up at the park around lunchtime seeking homosexual liaisons, investigators say.
As part of a sting operation prompted by complaints from residents who live nearby or use the park on Queenstown Road, county police have charged four men since Friday with indecent exposure and fourth-degree sex offenses, Detective Kevin A. Falls of the Western District said yesterday.
On Friday, police saw about 30 men walking around the 26.5-acre park about 12:30 p.m. Some were openly engaging in sex. Police say they have found condoms littering secluded areas of the woods as well as an area near the children's jungle gym.
After meeting on pathways covered with pine needles, men often slip away to hidden clearings by climbing through hilly, overgrown woods, Detective Falls said.
He said he arrested two men who allegedly propositioned him Friday, one near the jungle gym, and two others within an hour Monday who allegedly exposed themselves. All are married.
He said most of the men who frequent the park in search of sexual partners are white professionals who range in age from 18 to 70, many of whom live in Baltimore.
For years, men have met for anonymous sex in the woods at Friendship Park, where police arrested some 30 sex offenders in undercover operations in 1991 and 1992.
To deter the encounters, county officials brought in various organized activities, including motocross bike racing and a children's petting farm. In January, a private developer began building a golf center at the park under a lease agreement with the county.
The center is scheduled to open a week from Friday with a driving range and batting cages.
The construction has virtually driven the men from Friendship Park, where no arrests have been made for about a year, Detective Falls said.
"The thing we were worried about was where that activity would move to," said Jay Cuccia, assistant director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks. "We've got our answer to that question. They've moved around the corner to Queenstown."
Detective Falls called the problem "as bad or worse than we ever saw in Friendship."
As he checked the dense woods yesterday, he came upon one man who said he was there because he needed a restroom. The officer identified himself and asked the man to leave the woods.
Instead, the man wandered to a bench next to the jungle gym, then sat in his car in the parking lot. Other men sat in their cars alone. No arrests were made.
The crackdown, which is expected to continue all summer, is not meant as an attack on homosexuals, said Officer Terry Robey, county police spokeswoman.
"We want to deter this because school is getting ready to get out, and Little League softball games will be starting," she said.
On Friday, police charged Louis Bonselmeyer, 55, of the 400 block of Ridgeview Court, Arnold; and Ronald James Betson, 29, of the 6400 block of Martinique Road, Baltimore, with fourth-degree sex offenses.
Police arrested Michael Theodore Jeffords, 45, of the 8300 block of Fairwood Drive, Pasadena; and Charles Francis Mullen Jr., 26, of the 400 block of S. Pulaski St., Baltimore, Monday on charges of indecent exposure.