Florida police reported a successful undercover operation called “Swipe Left for Meth” using the dating app popularly used by the LGBTI community, Grindr, to catch drug dealers: more than 60 arrests were made.
The Polk County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office announced the results of its six-month undercover operation. In addition to making the arrests, the sheriff’s office said it also recovered 14 firearms and seized several grams of narcotics, including methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, fentanyl/heroin, LSD, psychedelic mushrooms and marijuana.
“All drug sales transactions were made on three different social media and mobile dating apps: Grindr, Scruff and Taimi. Grindr was the app with more drug sales than the other apps mentioned.” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
According to the sheriff’s office, the undercover operation began in July 2021, when officials received a tip from Heartland Crime Stoppers that people were using the dating app Grindr to illegally sell drugs.
After receiving the tip, Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigators created undercover profiles on Grindr and the other dating apps., “and it was relatively easy for them to strike up conversations with those who were selling (drugs).”
“It was clear during the conversations and subsequent undercover drug purchases that the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs, not find a date,” the sheriff’s office news release said.
According to County Sheriff Grady Judd, drug dealers are getting more creative in finding their customers and moving their product, but so are detectives. He also said that he was working with the app companies to raise awareness and request cooperation during the investigations.
“The good news is that we discovered that some of those who were on the dating app were reporting illegal drug sales when it became apparent to them, and mobile app companies banned some suspects trying to sell drugs. When we find drug dealers, we put them in jail”, he added.
During a news conference, Judd said the suspects were “openly advertising” the drugs they sold on dating apps. He also specified that his office has presented criminal charges against 68 different people. Sixty of those suspects have already been arrested, but another eight remain at large.
According to the sheriff’s office, 159 felony charges and 72 misdemeanor charges were filed against the suspects during the undercover operation.
“In total, the suspects have 908 prior charges, including 453 prior felonies and 455 prior misdemeanors. Eleven of the suspects told detectives they receive government assistance.” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
During the press conference, Judd displayed one of the firearms seized during the undercover operation and criticized those who referred to the arrests as criminals of “low level, non-violent”.