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Police sting at Lancaster park nets three on male sex-related charges

In response to complaints from park users, Lancaster police this week ran a sting operation aimed at men who solicit other men for sex in the restrooms and wooded areas of Como Lake Park.

Town police say they receive complaints each year from parkgoers who were approached for sex or who see men having sex in the woods along the park's nature trails.

Police arrested two men and a youth on charges of forcible touching or public lewdness during the undercover operation Tuesday, Detective Capt. Timothy R. Murphy said.

The reports of public sexual behavior and sexual solicitation typically start up again in the spring and summer at Como Lake Park, Murphy said.

Lancaster isn't alone in facing this problem. For years, Ellicott Creek Park in the Town of Tonawanda was known as a venue where men met each other for quick, anonymous sex, despite the risk of arrest.

Two parkgoers recently complained to Lancaster police about sexual activity and harassment at the park, located east of Lake Avenue between Broadway and William Street.

Police set up a sting using an undercover detective, who helped arrest two men and a teenager over the course of a couple of hours, Murphy said.

The detective met the two men, in separate incidents, in a men's restroom at the park and went with them into a wooded area nearby, the captain said.

In both cases, the men allegedly propositioned the detective and briefly groped him through his clothing before they were arrested.

The men -- a 66-year-old Lancaster resident and a 45-year-old West Seneca resident -- are charged with forcible touching, a Class A misdemeanor, Murphy said.

In the third case, a 16-year-old from Lancaster was arrested on a charge of public lewdness after he exposed himself to the detective and made a reference to a sex act while they were in the woods. Public lewdness is a Class B misdemeanor.

The 66-year-old was arrested by town police in Como Lake Park several years ago on a similar charge, Murphy said.

The Buffalo News in most instances does not report names in misdemeanor cases.

Murphy said police will run more undercover operations if the department receives similar complaints.

"People shouldn't have to worry about being harassed while they walk or while they take their children to the park to play," he said.

Tuesday's operation was supervised by Detective Lt. Gerald J. Gill Jr., and the arrests were made by Detectives Jason C. Batt, Thomas E. Bulera and Grant G. Gunsher.