New York’s police department is under fire from gay rights groups following a crackdown on gay customers in Manhattan adult video stores.
The department has been accused of falsely arresting men, which it claims were working at the establishments as male prostitutes.
The police’s alleged modus operandi in arresting the men is, however, said to be extremely unusual and unethical.
Reports claim that young attractive undercover policemen have been approaching middle-aged customers at the stores and offering to have consensual sex with them.
When the men leave the store together, the policemen then allegedly tell the older men that they will pay them for the sex.
The confused men agree, unsure why the younger men would make such a proposal, and are arrested on the spot for prostitution.
Gay groups say that the police’s actions are an attempt to shut down adult video stores by scaring off customers through criminalising gay sexual behaviour.
Even some city officials have slammed the crackdown, with city Councilmember Rosie Mendez issuing a statement critical of the police:
“In this instance, they are targeting the sexual conduct of gay men. This type of targeting is simply the harassment of certain type of commercial ventures and of potential customers of legitimate businesses. This type of harassment infringes upon an individual’s civil liberties.”
A number of the men – some of whom are foreign tourists – have chosen to plead guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
The Gotham Gazette reports that more than 200 people attended a recent meeting at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center to oppose the arrests.
As the number of arrests has increased, gay rights groups have called on those involved to fight the charges.