Half a dozen Volusia County parks were the grounds for a four-day sting operation, which resulted in the arrest of 17 men for lewd activity and one man for battery, the Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the impetus for the sting, dubbed “Operation Park Hopper,” came from complaints made by park patrons and the fact that schools had recently let out for summer vacation, meaning that more parents and children would likely be using the parks.
“If you insist in going in our parks and trails and engage in this type of despicable behavior you may find yourself in handcuffs,” Chitwood said Saturday at a news conference. “It’s important that we set the tone that our parks and trails are safe for families.”
During the sting, undercover deputies sat on park benches and waited for the men to approach. According to the police reports, the men often steered the conversation to sex, began to rub the undercover deputies or expose their genitalia to them, and, in some cases, masturbate.
All the men were arrested and charged with indecent exposure in public and committing lewd acts, according to arrest records. Two men were also charged with battery, and one man was charged with battery only.
The men arrested ranged in age from 28 to 78, though the majority were middle-aged or older, Chitwood said.
Among those arrested was 75-year-old Robert Warner, who advised an undercover deputy at Bicentennial Park in Ormond Beach that he ought to be careful because he had heard “about guys being arrested” on the west side of the county. Warner, of Union Grove, North Carolina, then pulled out his genitalia, according to the police report. He was arrested and charged with indecent exposure in public, according to a police report. He was the only man arrested there.
Riverbend Park off Airport Road in Ormond Beach saw eight men arrested there, the most at any of the parks. The small wooded area with a swing set and not much else was vacant Saturday.