Enrichment Arts & Culture

LGBTQ+ dating apps used by police in dozens of drug arrests

Story at a glance

  • Authorities in Florida this week said they used dating apps like Grindr and Scruff to make more than 60 drug-related arrests.
  • In a six-month sting operation officers called “Swipe Left for Meth,” detectives made undercover dating profiles to locate people suspected of buying and selling drugs.
  • According to the sheriff’s office, none of the people arrested were using the apps for their intended purpose, and were only using them to sell drugs.

Florida authorities this week said LGBTQ+ dating apps have helped them make upwards of 60 drug-related arrests.

In a six-month sting operation which officers called “Swipe Left for Meth,” undercover detectives used dating apps like Grindr and Scruff – targeted toward men who have sex with men – to locate a number of people suspected of buying and selling drugs online.

The operation produced more than 60 arrests, according to a news release, and detectives have obtained warrants for at least eight other suspects. 

Detectives during the investigation filed 159 total felony charges and 72 misdemeanor charges against the suspects, who, altogether, have 908 previous charges, including 453 prior felonies and 455 prior misdemeanors.


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“We’ve known for some time that suspects will use the Internet and social media to prey upon children online, or to engage in prostitution, but this is something we are seeing more and more of in Polk County – suspects who are using dating apps to sell illegal narcotics,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday in a statement.

Judd later added during a news conference that as suspects are “getting more creative,” so too are detectives, who were able to decipher the meaning behind code words and emojis used by dealers to conceal their sales.

Judd on Thursday also held up a rifle that detectives reportedly seized during the investigation. It was one of 14 firearms that were found, two of which Judd said were stolen.

Beginning in July after the sheriff’s office had been notified that the sale of drugs was being openly advertised on LGBTQ+ dating apps, detectives created undercover profiles, finding it “relatively easy to strike up conversations with those who were selling methamphetamine, cocaine, Ecstasy, LSD, Fentanyl, and marijuana,” the sheriff’s office said.

“We discovered exactly what we were told: that they were selling dope,” Judd said Thursday. “A lot of dope. A lot of street dope on these dating apps.”

Each of the suspects’ “primary purposes” for being on the dating apps used by detectives in the investigation were to sell drugs, and “none of the suspects charged in this investigation were interested in dating,” according to the sheriff’s office.


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