County police officers have been spending their lunch hours in Friendship Park lately -- waiting for men to ask them for sex.
For the past three weeks, undercover police have staked out the Glen Burnie park, responding to complaints from residents who use the park for sports or picnicking. And with warm weather approaching, police are concerned that illicit sexual encounters will occur more frequently.
"It's been going on at least three years," said Sgt. Cecil Chaneyof the Western District. "How long before that, I don't know."
About two years ago, undercover detectives videotaped men wearing negligees, woman's underwear and other flimsy clothing while walking through the park. Police made several arrests.
Three weeks ago, WesternDistrict detectives started cracking down on men who met for anonymous sex in the wooded areas of the park, and have made six arrests.
Friday afternoon, officers Kevin Falls and Perry Sauers, along with Chaney, arrived in the park at about 11:10 a.m. A little early for lunchtime, business was slow.
Falls and Sauers, in separate unmarkedcars, parked in the far lot and waited. Falls, who goes by the street name "Larry," lay on the hood of his car, as if sunning himself. Sauers, whose street name is "Gary," sat in his car with his leg hanging out the window.
Several hundred yards away, Chaney sat parked inan unmarked car and watched through a pair of binoculars. Not far from the parking lot, a man and a woman sat in a parked car locked in apassionate embrace.
A car drove by and the driver, a middle-aged man, stared at Falls.
"I knew he was interested," Falls said. "So when he parked his car a few feet from mine, I walked back into the woods."
The man followed. Once in the woods, Falls and the man started talking. At one point, the man grabbed Falls, sexually assaultinghim, Falls said.
Falls identified himself as a police officer andtold the man he could drive his own car to the front of the park so as not raise the suspicions of the others parked in the area.
Edward Lee Sherman, 45, of the 300 block Britt Court in Elkridge, was charged with a fourth-degree sex offense and trespassing.
"I basically tell them that I may not agree with what they are doing," Sauers said. "But why can't they get a hotel or do it some place else?"
The153-acre park is not the place for sex, Chaney said.
"You have tofeel sorry for them up to a point," he said. "Because there is something wrong with them."
While most suspects are probably harmless, Chaney said police are worried that it would only take one to hurt the children who frequent the park.
"Some of them could graduate to more serious criminal activity and you never know what they are goingto do," he said.
Falls agreed. "After awhile, being an exhibitionist doesn't turn them on anymore. And they move on to other things."
By 12:30 p.m., there were nine cars parked in the back lot, each with one man inside.
No one was out walking around, they just sat there.
Falls walked into the woods and one of the men got out of his car and followed him. A few seconds later, the man, almost running,came out of the woods. He spoke to the men parked in the other cars,and suddenly almost everyone started to drive off.
"He recognizedme as a police officer," Falls said later. The man was someone Fallshad met while working the street as a patrol officer.
"He took one look at me, turned around and ran off," he said.