Sarasota PD sends out prostitution warnings to residents - FOX 13 News

Sarasota PD sends out prostitution warnings to residents

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SARASOTA (FOX 13) -

Pull over along Sarasota's North Trail area and some say, you're probably up to no good.

"I see it constantly. Every hour of the night. Sometimes I get woken up by loud shouts on the trail. Prostitutes and drug dealers shouting on the street." says Jay Patel, hotel owner.

Jay Patel owns a hotel along the trail and says prostitutes come and go so often, he's started taking video of them.

"The police department, the neighborhood, the property owners have been trying to deal with this problem for decades and the police just keep on arresting and then they come back out constantly." says Jay Patel, hotel owner.

So, police are trying something new: A letter and a little shame.

"We're not accusing anybody of anything. We're just letting people know we are out there. We are watching. That we do have a no tolerance policy here in the city of Sarasota for prostitution." says Sgt. Demetri Konstantopoulos, Sarasota Police.

If your car is caught in the area, police send this letter to the registered owner's home saying the car was spotted in an area known for prostitution and that the driver or someone in the car talked with either a prostitute or an undercover cop posing as one. Officers say it's not the kind of note a wife or girlfriend wants to get in the mail.

"We'd be out on an operation and we didn't quite have enough probable cause to make an arrest. So, trying to think what can we do to kind of fix that? Is there a repercussion?" says Sgt. Konstantopoulos.

You bet there is, depending who is at home opening the mail.

"The strong message is don't come to Sarasota to pick up prostitutes. If you do, you're going to be rolling the dice. You're either going to go to jail or you're going to get one of these letters sent home to you." says Sgt. Konstantopoulos.

So far, only a handful of letters have gone out but Sarasota Police say more are on the way.

MORE ABOUT THE LETTER

"Your vehicle was observed on (this date) at an area within the city limits of Sarasota known for prostitution related crimes," a sample of the letter states. "The driver or occupant of your vehicle engaged in conversation with either: (1) a known prostitute (an individual who has been previously convicted of a violation of Florida States 796.07) or (2) an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a prostitute."

It's unclear how the letter is addressed when it arrives. Sarasota police emphasize that the letters are "not an accusatory letter," rather a way of alerting families or businesses of what happened.

Police say the letters are not coming with any charges.  

Authorities say they're trying to change the reputation of some areas in Sarasota through the letters, and they hope these letters help.

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