A Clear and Present Danger at John Prince Park, Follow Up.


Back on February 26 I posted about men using the trails at John Prince Park to meet for sexual rendezvous, Click here to view original post.

After posting the article I meet with a PBSO undercover detective and gave him the evidence we had taken and discussed what we had seen. The detective said that they were actively working on it and it was a problem since they just seemed to chase them from one area to another.

Today my friend and I went back to the area to see what the current state of affairs was. We walked the area and looked down a few of the paths we had taken photos of the first time. Our first impression was that it had been really cleaned up.  There were none of the bags containing messages hanging from the trees and the garbage had been cleaned out of the secluded paths leading off the trails.

Photo Taken February 29th.

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Same Spot Today.

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However as we continued to explore we came across new evidence of activity:

I have blurred the writing on the palm fronds as it is very graphic

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Condom hanging from tree

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A warning sign hanging in one of the hidden clearings

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While we were walking around we became aware of many single men walking the trails, some texting on their phones. It became clear that they were uncomfortable with our presence, particularly my holding a camera.  We also noticed many cars pulling into the parking lot directly across from the trails as well as one situated across the canal.

My friend flagged down a passing Park Ranger. The Ranger drove over to us and we talked about what was going on. She was very pleasent but clearly frustrated. After chatting for a while she decided to walk through the trails with us.

Ranger Carol

jpp2Ranger Carol loves her job. But she is so frustrated by what is happening on these trails. She said that the detectives had made a couple of arrests recently and that they were actively working the area. But she said that the men were so bold that they did not seem to be deterred by the police activity. I tagged along as she went down some of the paths.

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Well, we went down one path and came across a middle aged man in a little clearing. Carol spoke with him for a moment and then motioned to me to follow her back to the main trail. When we reached the trail Carol told me that we had stumbled on to a sting operation and that the man in the clearing was an undercover detective!  We walked back to the road and noticed that most of the cars in the parking lot had left.

My friend and I went back to my truck and were about to leave when two cars blocked our path. The detective that I had meet with the other week got out of one of the cars and flashed his badge.  Ranger Carol also pulled up. Once the detective recognized me he became friendly and told the other detective (the one who was walking the trails today) who I was. The other detective wanted to make sure I had not taken his picture. I assured him that I had not.  I apologized to them about spoiling their sting operation. The detective who I knew smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, they will be back soon and so will we”.

So there you have it, the Sheriffs and Park Rangers are trying hard to solve the problem but seemed a bit overwhelmed. I would like to suggest that more people use the trails.  I feel that more people walking those trails every day will make the people spoiling this wonderful park uncomfortable and perhaps they will move away and not be a threat to the families that use the park and nearby campground.  It’s a great trail and the walk will do you good!

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