Policing the Park

Sex Panic and Policymaking in Fresno, California

  • Kathryn Forbes
  • Kris Clarke
Keywords: policing, policy entrepeneurship, Fresno, California, sex panic, surveillance


This study explores how an undercover sting that targeted men soliciting sex with other men around public park toilets in Fresno, California, led to an increase in resources for local law enforcement, including a surveillance system that stretched beyond the park and into poor Black and Brown neighborhoods. We use the literature on policy entrepreneurship to make sense of the power of police both to quell opposition to unpopular public safety initiatives and to make the case for administrative expansion. This case study demonstrates that creating panic about public same-sex erotic activity can be utilized without appearing homophobic or drawing the wrath of LGBTQ+ rights groups, especially when focusing on the dangers to children. We argue that the men arrested for lewd conduct were simply collateral damage and not seen worthy of defense.


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How to Cite
Forbes, K., & Clarke, K. (2023). Policing the Park: Sex Panic and Policymaking in Fresno, California. Lambda Nordica, 28(4), 19-45. https://doi.org/10.34041/ln.v28.917