Sex solicitation sting expands

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is expanding its scrutiny of public places that might be sites for sexual trysts after last week's arrest of 10 men accused of soliciting sex in a city park.

"We're really not acting on anything yet,"sheriff's Vice Investigator Tony Hyatt said Thursday. "We're just trying to see where it's going on and when it's going on to more or less put a pattern together."

Richmond County's welcome centers, truck stops and the restrooms of some bookstores are all believed to be areas where men have tried to engage in sex acts, Investigator Hyatt said.

Investigators are watching these areas for signs of illegal activity, he said. Such indicators include groups of men loitering around a restroom or motorists who back their vehicle into a parking spot to hide the license plate, he said.

"It's just something that kind of keys us in on it," he said. "We just kind of sit back and watch them to see if they are there for legitimate reasons or if they're looking to solicit another male."

On Feb. 7, a sting operation by undercover officers ended with the arrests of 10 men at Pendleton King Park and at a parking area near the Augusta Canal off Lake Shore Loop and Milledge Road.

A day later, Investigator Hyatt said, he was taking pictures of some of the crime scenes and spotted what he believed to be more men attempting to solicit sex.

"It hasn't done away with the problem or dried it up," he said. "I mean, that's how bold they are. They were right back out there the next day."

He stressed that the parks and businesses are safe for people to attend but that they should be aware of their surroundings.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.