Complaints from the public, as well as intricately made videos from an apparent YouTube vigilante, have led to public lewdness or soliciting charges against three men arrested in Central Park, police said.
City police, with help from state police, staked out a portion of the park off Fehr Avenue Tuesday morning and witnessed two men masturbating in a public area and another man soliciting an undercover officer, police said.
The stakeout came about after complaints in recent weeks but also after police were made aware of videos posted to the YouTube video-sharing Web site by someone apparently wishing to expose the activity.
Whoever posted the videos, however, apparently never contacted police directly, police department spokesman Lt. Brian Kilcullen said. Instead, he or she simply posted the videos to YouTube, titling one “Pervert Park,” and set them to music, accusing the men in the videos of being there for sex.
Kilcullen said police responded. “Any complaints made directly to us, we’ll act on it,” he said. “The video wasn’t brought to our attention by the person who posted it.”
Charged Tuesday with public lewdness, a misdemeanor, were Dominick H. DiGirolamo, 61, of Pyle Road, and Keith Childs, 55, of Henry Street.
Childs and DiGirolamo are accused of masturbating near a baseball diamond while in a wooded area of the park, according to papers filed in court. Childs was arrested at 9:42 a.m., DiGirolamo at 10:18 a.m.
Also charged, but with violation-level loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense, was 76-year-old Lazarus Coppola, of Lenox Road.
He is accused of offering to engage in oral sex with an undercover police officer, according to papers.
Coppola, Kilcullen said, resembles one of the men targeted by the video vigilante in the online videos.
The videos themselves simply show men walking and standing in the area of the baseball diamonds. Some of the men are identifiable through faces or vehicles.
The creator of the videos makes the accusations, often in a mocking manner, through subtitles. Music was also added, often corresponding to the video. (The music includes mainstream songs, an apparent violation of YouTube copyright rules.)
One video is a first-person shot made by the videographer showing where he or she says everything happens, even showing a men’s bathroom where he or she alleges the activity takes place.
Kilcullen said police are unsure how long the activity has been going on. They were only made aware of it recently.
The dates of the videos are not included, though their content suggest they were taken last year. The user names were registered as long as five months ago. The first-person video is taken with snow on the ground.
Messages sent to the YouTube user names by The Daily Gazette Wednesday were not returned.
“Whoever made these videos and posted them to YouTube spent quite a bit of time doing it,” Kilcullen said. “I don’t believe we were ever in communication with him.”