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Dozens rounded up as alleged sex offenders

A surveillance operation in Florida has identified more than 40 men who will be facing various charges related to sexual acts in public places. According to reports, Operation Mangrove has resulted in 21 arrests thus far and more will likely take place.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office was in charge of the operation, which targeted certain areas of Joe's River Park as well as the boardwalk located in Bob Graham Beach in Stuart. Detectives went undercover after receiving complaints from people who witnessed naked men having sex in the park and in covered spots of the boardwalk. Hidden cameras were strategically placed near these spots. In many cases, the location of the cameras revealed the license plate numbers of the suspects' vehicles.

Although complaints about public sex displays in the two aforementioned places have been received by the Sheriff's Office for years, effective surveillance cameras were not available until now. One of the suspects arrested as part of Operation Mangrove is a known registered sex offender. A spokesperson from the Sheriff's Office explained that intelligence gathering had been conducted on craigslist.com and other web forums where men are known to set up encounters.

In Florida, sex offense charges related to public exposure are usually handled as first degree misdemeanors. However, they must be proven along with evidence of lewd or lascivious behavior. Being naked on the beach does not automatically mean that vulgar behavior took place. People who are in this type of a situation may want to meet with a criminal defense attorney to see what the possibilities are of getting the charges reduced.

WPTV, "45 men facing charges for having sex in public places in Martin County", Meghan McRoberts, Aug. 17, 2017

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