Police authorities in Polk County in Florida have arrested 60 suspected drug dealers who use dating apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and Taimi among others to ply their trade. The suspects were arrested following a sting operation, and eight others who are on the run have been slammed with drug charges. In total, police filed 159 felony charges and 72 misdemeanor charges against the suspects.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the undercover operation led to the seizure of 14 firearms, 280 grams of meth, 3 grams of cocaine, 1.5 grams of fentanyl, 113 grams of ecstasy, 1 gram of LCD, 28 grams of mushrooms, and 645 grams of marijuana. A total of 908 combined felony and misdemeanor charges were previously slammed on the accused, whose ages range from 22-67 years.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said operatives had known since early last year that the suspects used social media and dating apps to engage in prostitution, child trafficking, and narcotics sales, but the scale of operation is mind-boggling after operatives went undercover. He said the code word for dealing in narcotics on Grindr and the rest dating apps was “Swipe Left for Meth” and that the arrest operation was successful.
“It was clear during the conversations and ensuing drug buys that the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs — not to find a date,” Sheriff Judd said. “When you would hit them up, swipe left for meth, you would talk to these folks — guess what? They would offer to sell you drugs.”
The drug dealers also got creative by using ice-cream cones and birthday cake emojis as well as code-words to mask narcotics sales on LGBTQ dating apps, and security operatives also signed in on the game by registering bogus profiles to reach the major actors.
Grindr which says it is the largest social networking app for the LGBTQ community hosted more narcotics sales than other dating apps, but the management said they are working hard behind the scenes to “ban bad actors while maintaining the privacy and security of our users.” The company urged users to report suspicious activities to moderators for necessary action.
Scruff would not respond to queries, but a spokeswoman for Taimi said the dating app uses algorithms and human moderators to weed out bad elements on the platform. The spokeswoman said they will conduct an internal probe to investigate the issue of drug dealings and urged users to report illegal and aggressive activities to moderators.
“We’re working with these mobile app companies to raise awareness, and asking for their cooperation during our investigations,” Judd said. “The good news is, we found that some who were on the dating app were reporting illegal drug sales when it became apparent to them, and the mobile app companies were banning some suspects attempting to sell drugs. When we find drug dealers, we put them in jail.”