Six arrests were made during two details performed by area Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officers to target those soliciting sexual favors.
Four men were arrested in less than three hours Friday in Clark State Forest and two men were arrested near Falls of the Ohio State Park a week ago. None of the arrests were related, but all of the offenders were arrested and preliminarily charged with public indecency as a class C misdemeanor.
DNR conservation officer Bo Spainhour said such stings are organized only after the agency receives complaints from the public. He said DNR had heard concerns from Clarksville officials regarding suspicious people around the Falls of the Ohio.
“They had apparently been fielding complaints from the public of problems we had in the past referencing suspicious actively that was sexual in nature,” he said.
Working with the Clarksville Police Department, officers focused on the wooded area south of West River Road between the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center and Ashland Park to the east. Soon after one of the undercover officers sat on a piece of driftwood on a trail about 1 p.m. July 9, he was approached by Samuel Elmore, 64, of Louisville. Spainhour said the men were initially engaged in a conversation about the weather and how secluded the area was.
“After a very brief conversation, Mr. Elmore reached up the shorts of our officer and attempted to touch the genitalia of the officer,” Spainhour said.
Elmore was not only preliminarily charged with public indecency, but also class B misdemeanor battery for the attempted physical contact. Spainhour said Elmore admitted that he had a lapse in judgment and it was the first time he had behaved in that manner.
About an hour later, as one of the officers was walking along a trail in the area, he came upon Carlos M. Berrios, 47, of East 11th Street in New Albany. Spainhour said Berrios had his back to the officer, but was seen masturbating. He said Berrios later stated that he was only urinating.
Elmore and Berrios were taken to the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex in Jeffersonville before the detail was completed.
Spainhour said the DNR was pleased to team up with the Clarksville Police Department to conduct the operation.
“We were ecstatic they were willing to work with us,” Spainhour said. “It was a joint operation, and we look forward to working with them in the future.”
Spainhour explained that most of the interaction between officers and the men or women looking to solicit sexual favors is the same. He said there is usually a brief conversation about the weather, then a comment about being in a private area, then the offender begins to touch himself or attempt to touch the officer. He said it often happens quickly and that most of the sexual activity takes place during lunch and dinner hours.
STATE FOREST ARRESTS
On Friday, DNR set up an operation in Clark State Forestry and made four arrest between 12:30 and 3 p.m. Spainhour said the detail included two undercover officers and three uniformed officers.
He said Michael D. Mount, 69, of North Gardner Street in Scottsburg, was arrested after an interaction with an undercover conservation officer about 1 p.m. The officer drove into a parking lot and walked to a nearby shelter. When he returned to the parking lot, he found Mount in a parked vehicle that had pulled close to the officer’s. Spainhour said Mount flashed his headlamps at the oncoming officer, even though it was the middle of the day.
As the officer approached the vehicle, “Mount was already manipulating himself then he exposed himself and asked the officer if he liked it,” Spainhour said.
Spainhour said the officer then exposed his state-issued DNR badge, and Mount was taken into custody.
At about the same time, the second undercover officer made an arrest in a different part of the forestry. The officer was sitting on a log, when he was approached by Micheal S. Wooten, 51, of Riverpointe Plaza in Jeffersonville. Spainhour said there was, again, a brief conversation that included the statement, “Sure, is private around here,” which was followed by Wooten suddenly reaching up the shorts of the officer. Wooten was also preliminarily charged with class B misdemeanor battery for the contact.
Several prescription pills that Wooten could not produce a prescription for were found in his nearby vehicle, and he was , additionally, preliminarily charged with possession of controlled substance, a class D felony.
A little more than two hours later, Curtis E. Gregory, 75, of Wellington Green in Clarksville, was approached by an undercover officer as he sat in a large shelter of eight to 10 picnic tables, Spainhour said. Spainhour said Gregory asked the officer if he was followed by anyone, and the officer responded, “Not that I am aware of,” to which Gregory responded by beginning to masturbate.
Spainhour said the entire incident took place in about 30 seconds.
Moments before 3 p.m., an officer pulled into a parking lot in the forestry and parked next to a vehicle occupied by William M. Gallman, 57, of Marysville. Spainhour said the two discussed the weather, the seclusion, and Gallman referenced previous sexually related encounters on state property.
The officer left the area and told Gallman he was going to the restroom and when he returned, he found Gallman masturbating in his vehicle.
Spainhour said when an individual is found guilty of public indecency in the state properties, they receive a one-year ban from the areas. He said conducting stings can mitigate those looking to solicit sexual favors in the parks, but added the offenders may fear the public embarrassment more than the charge itself.
Spainhour said the DNR will continue working to make state parks a safe for those who to enjoy their nature and amenities.
“In my opinion, these places are set up by the state of Indiana for recreators. Some people can’t afford a shelter by a lake to have a birthday party and want to use the property. Not everybody has the availability of what the state can offer,” Spainhour said. “The public should know there are men and woman in green uniforms to back them with any problem the have, whatsoever.”