Robert Gittle of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida was arrested in a local library on July 25 for allegedly planning a sexual rendezvous with a 14-year-old boy he met on the gay hookup app Grindr.
Gittle, 25, is charged with traveling to solicit a minor for unlawful sexual conduct, and lewd and lascivious battery on a minor older than 12 but younger than 16. He is being held in lieu of a $1 million bond. The press did not name an attorney for him.
According to the arrest report, Gittle had a sexual encounter with the boy in a library last spring. The victim, now 15, reported the incident to the Coral Springs Police Department. He told investigators that he met Gittle, who presented himself as an 18 year old, on the gay-hookup app Grindr. After establishing a correspondence, they eventually began sending each other text messages. They met in May last year in a bathroom inside a Coral Springs library and allegedly had a sexual encounter, the report said. Surveillance footage from the building reportedly corroborates that meeting.
An undercover detective re-established communication with Gittle on July 18. The detective reminded Gittle of the victim’s age and he “acknowledged that the child was a minor and continued the text exchange,” the report said.
Gittle was reportedly eager to meet the victim and hinted that he was interested in sex, but wouldn’t provide any more details. He also warned the victim not to say anything sex-related in their correspondence because “it could get him in trouble.”
“Robert Gittle was eager to meet the minor,” Detective Jason Carter wrote in his report. “During the conversation, Robert Gittle alluded to meeting with the child for a sexual encounter but refused to provide any details of his intentions.”
Gittle met the undercover detective on July 25 at the Broward County Northwest Regional Library and was placed under arrest. Records show he is currently out on bond for manufacturing, distribution, and possession of child pornography.
Law enforcement agents in South Florida have been cracking down on sex offenders in recent weeks. 22 sex offenders who were living in off-limit areas of Fort Lauderdale have been arrested as part of “Operation Here Not There” in the past six weeks. The arrests were orchestrated by the U.S Marshals Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Fort Lauderdale Police.
The majority of the arrests were made in Fort Lauderdale, where sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,400 feet of a park, school, or school bus stop. Some of the suspects were found in cities near Fort Lauderdale like Oakland Park, Lauderdale, and Pompano Beach, and a few were arrested in Colorado and New York.
Statistics from the Florida Council on Homelessness show that there were 103 transient sex offenders in Broward County in 2011. That number jumped to almost 400 in 2017, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Florida legislature passed a law in 2014 that requires sex offenders who are homeless or don’t have a permanent address to register their location with the local sheriff’s office every 30 days. Failure to comply is a third-degree felony.