Beverly Hills Steps Up Patrols to Stop Cruising
Stephen Miller has a little warning for lunch-hour visitors to his Beverly Hills parks who have an appetite for anything beyond a sandwich or a summer salad:
Stay away. Don’t even think about it. Read his lips--his parks are havens for families and little old ladies and folks who want a little peace and quiet.
So no cruising for sex partners allowed.
Miller is the director of the Beverly Hills Recreation and Parks Department and recently he has had a little parks public relations problem.
Last month, British pop star George Michael was arrested for partially disrobing and committing a lewd act while alone in the tiny public restroom at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills--the quaint 83-year-old green space that lies in the shadow of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel.
In the meantime, officials have stepped up undercover police patrols and have placed rangers in various parks during special hours to discourage such sexual adventurism.
City officials don’t believe that the 34-year-old Michael found their restroom by accident.
Miller acknowledged that restrooms at Will Rogers and Greystone parks in Beverly Hills are listed on an Internet site that offers an extensive list of sex cruising spots across the country.
“Somebody who wants to come here based on what they see on the Internet can be assured that they’re going to spend a little more time than they planned in Beverly Hills,” Miller said. “A lengthy police hotel stay, so to speak.”
Michael last week pleaded no contest to the sex charge in Beverly Hills Municipal Court and was ordered to undergo counseling. The officers who arrested him were responding to complaints made in previous weeks about such behavior, according to Beverly Hills Police Lt. Edward T. Kreins. Only moments before Michael’s arrest, officers took another man into custody for lewd conduct at the same Will Rogers restroom.
The two arrests were not related, Kreins said.
Although acknowledging that they have less cruising than such neighboring cities as West Hollywood, Beverly Hills officials say that their patrols will continue for now.
Gay activists say that the increased patrols, especially involving undercover officers, are yet another example of selective law enforcement against homosexuals.
Jon Davidson, a supervising attorney at Lambda, the country’s largest and oldest lesbian and gay legal organization, said heterosexual couples who park at scenic spots along Mulholland Drive routinely engage in activities that meet the public standard for lewd conduct.
“But when was the last time that police staked out Mulholland?” he asked. “We believe police are applying a double standard and are targeting gay men for arrest for conduct for which heterosexual men are not arrested.”
Kreins answered: “We want a city where people can walk down the sidewalk and not have to look inside cars and see a lewd act.” Although she has never encountered any illegal activities on her midday patrols at Will Rogers park, ranger Luz Rodriguez said she believes that her presence has had an effect.
“Sometimes people will sit on park benches and look kind of suspicious,” she said. “But if I watch them long enough, they usually will just walk away.”
On Thursday, park visitors were unfazed by such concerns.
“You should come to Berlin,” said German tourist Peter Kosolowski, sitting on a park bench at Will Rogers park with two female companions. “This kind of thing happens all the time. It doesn’t bother me.”