published: Sunday, October 07, 2012
Time to take back what's been stolen from us
The Veterans Beach men's room has been an unfortunate problem for many years, attracting men who engage in public sex acts. The sex sting operation conducted by the Sebring police in September is not the first, nor is it likely to be the last.
We cannot imagine what possesses individuals to indulge in this kind of dangerous behavior, especially in a space that serves families and children.
The Sebring police are to be commended for responding to citizen complaints and taking action.
There are people, however, who have concerns about individual cases.
Ron Hancock, one of the men arrested, visited the News-Sun to firmly announce his innocence. He said he will plead not guilty and fight the charges. He said the lack of privacy in the men's room was the reason he was arrested.
The News-Sun reminds everyone that the legal system requires us to withhold judgment until a suspect is found guilty as charged. We wait for the full facts of each case to emerge in court, and have confidence that in the long run, justice will be done, whatever the resolution.
There is no such caution, however, regarding the conditions of the restroom itself.
A retired minister, Floyd Holland, came to the News-Sun after reading about the arrests. He told us he had been to the men's room during a recent prayer gathering, scouting it because of the children attending. He said he was "appalled ... There was no way I would use it. You have to sit in total view. I would have been charged if I had stood up."
The News-Sun made a visit for a first-hand inspection.
The rest room is starkly functional, with painted, bare cinder block walls and no mirrors. It was clean the day we visited. There is a wall at a right angle to the entrance, blocking an immediate view inside. Once in the room itself, however, there is indeed no privacy, except at the urinal.
Both commodes and the two changing stalls do not have doors. Without doors, the changing booths are useless and the commodes fully exposed. It is absolutely no place for children.
The problem, according to Bob Hoffman, Sebring's assistant administrator, was constant vandalism over many years. Stall doors were consistently torn right off their hinges. It got to the point, Hoffman said, the city had to give up because of the futility and the expense. Hoffman added stall door vandalism is a problem in other public bathrooms, too.
So what do we do?
Clearly we have to protect our children, but answers don't come easy.
Should cameras be installed at the entrance or police conduct frequent patrols, or the city hire a private secutiry guard? Should stall curtains be installed instead of doors? Or, should the restroom be closed down altogether?
We don't have a suggestion at the moment.
We have observed over the years, however, that the more "good" people use a public space, the fewer "bad" people hang around.
A solution may be as simple as families using the restroom more often; taking it back and crowding out those men with sexual urges and no impulse control.
Whatever we do, the point is, something has to be done.
Veteran's Beach men's bathroom (by: Glynette Beursken - 10/7/2012)
Maybe the City should consider closing the bathrooms during the problem hours...possibly between sunset & sunrise.
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