An undercover sting operation in the Desoto National Forest has led to the arrest of six men--all charged with indecent exposure.
They're accused of engaging in public sex acts along the Tuxachanie Hiking Trail off Highway 49, a place authorities say has become a gathering spot for men engaging in illegal sexual activities.
Youngsters and their families often explore nature here at the Tuxachanie Hiking Trail, but authorities say lately, the park has been a site for illegal sexual activity.
"We first got a complaint about a month and a half ago from a mother who had her two young children, walking through the walking trail, and found two people engaging into a sexual act in front of her children," Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said.
After receiving this and similar complaints, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department launched an undercover investigation. Sheriff Payne says the undercover officers found the trail was indeed being used as a meeting place for men engaging in public sex.
"On a given afternoon, there might be 15 or 20 males on that trail, only a short distance actually from the highway, using it for not only open sex, but also illegal acts," Sheriff Payne said.
So far, the sting operation has led to the arrest of six men. Three men are from the coast. They are Robert Haslanger of Ocean Springs, Phillip Seymour of Biloxi, and Norman McCracken of Gulfport.
The other three are from Hattiesburg. They are John Bivins, Jackie Kidd and James Coleman. All are charged with indecent exposure.
In an effort to deter lewd criminal activity in the park, authorities are beefing up patrols in the area
"When you enter the trail, you will be under surveillance, there will be patrols. There will be undercover operatives in the area. So, anybody who gets caught in there now, they're forewarned. If they use that area, they have a good chance of being arrested," Sheriff Payne said.
One of the men arrested in the case, Robert Haslanger of Ocean Springs also faces a charge of resisting arrest and simple assault.
Tuesday, signs will be posted warning people who use the trail that they will be under surveillance.