2 min

Riverdale by night

The police say they only want the prostitutes, not cruisers

Men cruising for sex in Riverdale Park may now find themselves under increased scrutiny.

People in the park late at night for any reason may come up against intensified police and security patrols that are cracking down on prostitution in and around the park.

Toronto’s Parks And Recreation Department has even received an offer from a private security company to do patrols in the park, in the wake of an area resident allegedly finding a used condom in the hands of his two-year-old daughter. (The decision on whether or not they would take the company up on the offer had not been made by the time Xtra went to press.) Local residents and businesses, including the Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area, initiated the possibility of the special security patrol.

Insp Ken Kinsman of Toronto Police Service’s 51 Division says Riverdale Park is currently one of the “identified problem areas” when it comes to clamping down on prostitution.

Kinsman says cruising or any other consensual activities among gay men in the park is not necessarily an issue. But he says that increased patrols could result in some cruisers getting caught up in the dragnet.

“I can’t think of any complaints that I’ve received concerning that issue [cruising] in that particular park,” Kinsman says. “However, if officers were paying special attention to the park and they observe an indecent act taking place, that would be up to the officers to take care of. But it is not something that we are specifically looking for.” (The cruising area is mostly in the east, while the perceived pro- blem is near Riverdale Farm.)

Since the incident with the toddler and the condom, Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Pam McConnell has been working to coordinate the park security to clean up the park. McConnell’s staff says she’s requested more security and also that the on-duty staff walk the full perimeter of the park, not just near the farm as they have done in the past.

Susan Mazza, one of McConnell’s aides, suggests that gay men cruising in the park is not an issue that has come up in any of their discussions.

There is a sense that more vigilant patrol by security and increased police awareness may not necessarily translate into solutions. Kinsmen says the police are stretched when it comes to prostitution during the warm nights, and there are no plans to increase foot or bike patrols in the Cabbagetown park.

“We’ve got several areas of prostitution… and they are all incredibly busy right now,” Kinsman says. “I don’t want to mislead the public into thinking there are police officers there all the time.”