County police have arrested six people during a month-long sting operation at The Mall in Columbia, where plainclothes detectives said numerous sex crimes were being committed in the men's public restrooms.
Two undercover officers have staked out the bathrooms since May 1after receiving a request from mall officials for police surveillance, said Sgt. Robert Adams, a county police spokesman.
"Some citizens had complained about visible sexual activity in the restrooms," Adams said. Most of those arrested were charged with indecent exposure. Police said undercover officers will continue to monitor the restrooms.
Adams said public restrooms at malls occasionally become targets for illicit sexual activity since numerous people pass through. "A lot of times a place starts to attract this kind of thing by word of mouth," he said.
Police say it is not uncommon for "match-making" networks, established through community and computerbulletin boards, to label certain locations as meeting points.
William R. Nunn, the vice president and general manager of the mall, said he hopes that a tough stance will drive sexual offenders out of public restrooms.
"Unfortunately, these people seem to move from onearea to another rather quickly. If you force them out, they'll just go elsewhere," Nunn said. "But they can count on a lot of resistance from the (Columbia) mall."
Earlier this year, seven men were arrested in a county police undercover investigation at the restrooms of the Chatham Mall in Ellicott City. Each was charged with indecent exposure and sexual solicitation. Those cases are pending. In 1987, county police arrested 10 men at the Columbia mall in a similar sting operation in the restrooms.
In Howard County, more than 30 other people have been arrested on sexual solicitation charges in recent years. In all of the past incidents, police said the solicitation was among males.
State police also have conducted periodic undercover vice operations at a rest stop along Interstate 95, with approximately 15 arrests made since April 1988.
Arrested at the Columbia mall last month were:
* George Elmer Whalen, 47, of the 10300 block of Faulkner Ridge Circle in Columbia, charged with solicitation for lewdness, indecent exposure and battery;
* Sinandi Santiago Dionisio, 26, ofthe 9000 block of Northfield Road in Ellicott City, charged with solicitation for lewdness;
* Timothy Paul Rogers, 26, of the unit block of Windy Meadow Court in Randallstown, charged with indecent exposure;
* Richard Ira Weeks, 52, of the 6400 block of Kriel Street inBaltimore, charged with a fourth-degree sexual offense and assault and battery;
* David Wayne Shaffer, 32, of the 200 block of Thelma Avenue in Glen Burnie, charged with indecent exposure; and
* Greg Lee Leineweber, 34, of U.S. 1 in Grasonville, charged with indecent exposure.
Police said all of those charged were released on bail orpersonal recognizance.