The arrests follow multiple complaints from citizens to OPD about lewd activity in bathrooms, along wooded walking trails and vehicles last year at the park, located at 2300 S.W. 24th Ave.
The men arrested include: Lester Simeon, 40; Garrick Ortman, 36; William Moses, 50; Bruce Adams, 64; Alexander Clary, 63, a registered sex offender and Carey Croy, 55, according to a Dec. 14 OPD press release.
Clary is a registered sex offender, according to OPD Public Information Officer Jeffrey Walczak; he also had a similar type of arrest back in 2013 out of Dunnellon, while his other arrests that can be found on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) webpage are different in nature.
The other men appeared to have no similar criminal activity.In 2021, OPD received more than a dozen calls for service pertaining to suspicious incidents and/or vehicles where obscene public acts were reported to have occurred, according to the department.
The arrests follow the early November formation of an operational plan created by OPD’s Intelligence Unit, with help from the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office and Ocala Recreation and Parks to combat the reported lewd activities at the park.
Surveillance cameras were mounted in suspected areas of concern, in an attempt to reveal these activities and to document and identify all parties.
“We are able to actually observe people and identifications now,” said OPD Detective Reinaldo Rodriguez, who is responsible for all parks within the City of Ocala. “Once they’re identified, then we are able to move forward and develop protocols and get trespass warnings in place.”
Detectives observed the obscene public activities from Nov. 3 to Dec. 10, according to the press release, with the individuals arriving at the park alone and entering the wood walking trails looking to engage in sexual activity with someone.
The men, along with other unidentified suspicious persons, frequently visited the park on numerous occasions, exhibiting obscene public behavior.
The incidents were documented by detectives and presented to the State Attorney’s Office for arrest warrants. Several other people were given trespass citations for similar behavior.
“This has been going on for many years from what I’ve been told,” said Det. Rodriguez. “And I’ve been with the department for five years now.”
Discovering similar incidents in the act is difficult, he said.
“By the time we get there, no one is there,” said Rodriguez.
Last year, OPD also arrested two other men for lewd activities at Scott Springs Park; Cedric Brigham was charged with exposure of sexual organs on Sept. 9 while Richard Yanez was arrested for breach of peace/disorderly conduct during the same incident.
The department has suggested that any excess brush in the park be cleaned up by August or September of this year to help eliminate opportunities for concealment by those attempting to conduct lewd acts.
Bill Rodriguez, Parks Division Head for the City of Ocala deferred to the OPD on any questions regarding the six men arrested in December, or any other similar incidents involved with the police operation in Scott Springs Park.
Sara Johnson, community engagement coordinator for Parks and Recreation in Marion County, said that the majority of the issues the county deals with in its parks revolve around vandalism.
“We have issues with spray paint graffiti, stuff being knocked over or ripped down. We’ve had some issues with people who have lit things on fire in parks,” Johnson said. “Anything happening to the extent of what happened at Scott Springs, we haven’t caught wind of yet.”
Det. Reinaldo Rodriguez said he didn’t know why Scott Springs Park seemed to draw such activity in particular, and wasn’t aware of any other parks in the city or county with a similar reputation.
“A couple of individuals we did arrest, we asked them [why Scott Springs Park] and they just said it had been going on for so long,” he said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Valerie Strong said to the Gazette last week that after reviewing incidents throughout 2021, the department had discovered no issues of note concerning county parks in relation to the recent obscene public activities reported at Scott Springs Park, adding that sheriff’s deputies do make routine patrols in all county parks.