Multiple complaints about men harassing women lead to increase in patrols, undercover operation
Complaints about men flashing their genitals and attempting to grope female joggers have led to increased patrols on the Katy Trail by uniformed and undercover police officers.
“We’ve had some problems up there,” said Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community. “We have been using undercover officers up there either riding bicycles, walking or jogging because of the complaints.”
Police officers have always patrolled the trail, but their presence has increased because of the complaints, Martin said.
One woman complained about a naked man chasing her down the trail, Martin said. Others complained about men on bicycles riding past and groping them, she said.
The illegal activity is occurring during the daylight hours, Martin said.
Martin said a man recently exposed himself to an undercover policewoman. It occurred during the policewoman’s second day on the assignment, in the late afternoon when the trail is at its busiest, she said.
“It’s evidently not that uncommon,” Martin said.
Martin said the men suspected of exposing themselves are thought to be heterosexual.
“You would assume so,” Martin said.
But the police department has also had complaints about illegal behavior on the trail after dark, particularly in the area near Reverchon Park, Martin said. The trail is a cruising spot, and there have been complaints about joggers being forced to “dodge a trail of used condoms and needles,” she said.
“There’s a lot of activity up there late at night,” Martin said. “People will go up there to meet people. It’s a cruising spot.”
The activity is heaviest on Friday and Saturday nights, she said.
Martin said the trail opens at sunrise and closes at midnight. Reverchon Park opens at 8 a.m. and closes at midnight. Anyone found on the trail or in the park during any other time is breaking the law, she said.
“There is a curfew, and we do enforce it because it is a City of Dallas public park,” Martin said.
Although the uniformed and undercover police officers are targeting men who are exposing their genitals to women and attempting to grope them, they will likely arrest anyone they encounter involved in any type of illegal behavior, Martin said.
A message was recently posted on the craigslist.org Web site area devoted to gay men in the Dallas area claiming that police are monitoring and arresting gay men on the trail.
“It’s not necessarily the gay community that’s being targeted with the enforcement,” Martin said. “It’s anyone who would be exposing themselves to anyone who does not want to see what they’ve got.”
There have not been any complaints about public lewdness activity being witnessed, she said.
Martin cautioned that it is dangerous for anyone to go into parks or other secluded areas by themselves after dark.
There are at least six unsolved murders of gay men from the last few years on the books. Police suspect many of the men met their killers during clandestine sexual encounters.
Martin said the Katy Trail at times attracts people who are planning illegal activity.
“People will use the Katy Trail for reasons other than recreation, and they’re the problem,” Martin said.
The Katy Trail was a cruising area for decades before the railroad tracks were removed and it was developed as a walking and jogging trail. Dallas Police Department undercover vice squad officers regularly conducted stings and made arrests, but the activity always resumed.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.