The remote canyons and shady trails of Elysian Park have long drawn residents in search of some peace, quiet and – in the case of many gay men – sex. The reputation of Elysian Park as a gay cruising ground is far from new. But today the LAPD revealed a video of some recent arrests for lewd conduct in Elysian Park – as well as images of trails littered with used condoms and containers of lubricant – that officials hope will discourage the risky and possibly dangerous behavior. Recently, police said there has been an increase in the number of men who have been robbed and assaulted in the parks, possibly by gang members, while searching for sex. While this morning’s press conference focused on Elysian Park, public sex and lewd behavior are also problems in Griffith Park and Sycamore Park in Highland Park, said LAPD Sgt. Lisa Phillips, head of the Northeast Division’s vice unit. Last year, about 90 people – including doctors and lawyers on their lunch breaks -were arrested in the three parks for lewd behavior. But those arrests have done little to to reduce the problem.
The arrests this week in Elysian Park took place in the hills near the Northeast Little League ball fields and the Los Angeles Police Academy. “We’ve had complaints from officers who jog up there,” said Northeast Capt. William Murphy.
About 80 of last year’s arrests were equally divided between Elysian and Griffith parks, with the remainder at Sycamore Park, Phillips said. However, the statistics did not include Elysian Park east of the 110 Pasadena Freeway, where there has also been a problem with lewd behavior over the years. She noted that the vast majority of men arrested in Elysian Park for lewd conduct are Latino while those in Griffith Park are white.
The parks have historically been a refuge for gays in the face of laws that could have gotten members of the same sex arrested for holding hands or dancing together, Phillips said. “That’s what drove a lot of people into these areas to meet up, to hook up – to meet other gay people,” she said. “But the times have changed. The laws have changed. Its not illegal simply to be gay anymore. But [this] segment of the community hasn’t quite caught up with the changing of the times.”
Police noted that many of the men arrested were engaged in unsafe sex, which could lead to the spread of HIV and other contagious diseases. AIDS activist Richard Zaldivar, president of The Wall Las Memorias Project, said these men were also vulnerable criminals who know their victims are reluctant to report the crimes out of fear and embarrassment. That’s why his group wanted “to warn the community … that there are some serious activities taking at this park.”
Photo by LAPD