HAVERHILL — For decades, Winnekenni Park and its hundreds of wooded acres have been an escape for families living in the city.
They go there for hikes, bike riding, to walk their dogs and have picnics.
But lately, another activity is happening at the park. It has visitors angry and complaining to police.
Several residents visiting the park have reported suspicious activity there by men, police said.
As a result, undercover Haverhill detectives are monitoring the park. They made two arrests in the last week involving lewd conduct, police said.
In both cases, the men who are charged made sexual advances toward male undercover officers, said police Lt. Robert Pistone.
Detectives arrested Verlin Wesley Balsiger, 78, of Hampton, N.H., on June 4 at noon and charged him with wanton, lewd and lascivious conduct. Police said he exposed himself sexually to a male detective who was dressed in civilian clothes.
Detectives arrested Daryl Goll, 45 of Haverhill on June 11 at 1:21 p.m. and charged him with indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 and wanton, lewd and lascivious conduct. Police said he grabbed a male undercover detective in a sexual manner.
Pistone said police will not tolerate such activity in a public place, especially a park where families gather.
“The Haverhill Police will continue to aggressively patrol all our parks to prevent illegal activity,’’ he said. “The Winnekenni Park is considered a safe area for our citizens and their families, and these incidents are considered to be isolated. These incidents have occurred in the past and have been resolved quickly with the help of aware citizens notifying the Haverhill Police of any suspicious behavior they observe.’’
Pistone said it appears there is no connection between the Winnekenni Park arrests and several reports about a month ago of a man exposing himself to women in the Monument Square area and adjacent neighborhoods. The Eagle-Tribune ran several stories alerting the public to those reports and pointing out that police warned women to be aware of the man.
“Ever since the Monument Square incident was highly publicized, we haven’t seen another incident in that area,’’ Pistone said. “That case remains open with some suspects, but not enough evidence to prosecute at this time.’’
Public asked to help
Police ask that any visitors to Winnekenni Park who see suspicious activity call the Police Department anonymous tip line at 978-373-1212.