NEW PORT RICHEY — Prostitution seems to know no boundaries, West Pasco authorities agree, especially along areas of U.S. 19 from Holiday to Hudson.
Several law enforcement agencies are targeting the crime as a way to slam the door shut on the revolving door of enforcement.
That’s why New Port Richey police teamed with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office for the One Trick Pony undercover operation last week to catch the “johns,” or customers, who solicit prostitutes. The sting netted eight arrests.
“We’re definitely not done with this type of operation,” New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart told City Council Tuesday night. This is the third or fourth such sting against prostitution, he said, since the problem has escalated of late.
“They can expect more,” Bogart cautioned prostitutes and their clients about more stings.
Favorite hangouts of prostitutes change often, Bogart pointed out, which can complicate the task of officers.
Councilman Jeff Starkey rode along with police during One Trick Pony as an observer.
“It absolutely blows my mind,” Starkey said about the brazenness of some prostitutes and customers. During One Trick Pony, prostitutes invited clients to meet behind a shopping plaza at a spot within about 50 feet of a school, Starkey lamented.
“It’s the same people” time and time again, Starkey said about arrests on prostitution charges. The councilman would like to see newspapers and other publications print the “mug shot” photos of arrestees.
Starkey pushed hard for an ordinance for tougher penalties against prostitution. City council gave final approval to the stricter regulations in November.
Under the new rules, a first offense under the prostitution ordinance could result in up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Repeat offenses could result in six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
One Trick Pony focused on the U.S. 19 corridor, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Melanie Snow explained in the original press release.
The operation was led by Detectives John Sharpe and Russ Meissner, with assistance from other squads. Undercover female officers from the Sheriff’s Office and New Port Richey took part.
Seven men and one woman were arrested on charges of solicitation of prostitution, according to the arrest reports. They are:
Desmond Raymond Prawl, 54, 5243 Hemlock Drive, New Port Richey.
Robert Charles Brandau, 58, 6341 Garland Court, New Port Richey.
Robert Edgar McKinney, 35, 6889 S.W. 207th Ct., Dunnellon.
Miguel Pacheco-Rios, 30, 37408 Rose Ave., Dade City.
Wilberto Jose Espinoza, 22, 15116 21st St., Dade City.
Francisco Javier Valdez-Gomez, 35, 7054 Green St., New Port Richey.
John Robert Glevin, 39, 1307 Honor Drive, Holiday.
Dana Christina Rubi, 32, 5218 Limit Drive, Port Richey.
Port Richey police have mounted their own offensive against prostitution.
“There is a prostitution resurgence,” Police Chief Dave Brown commented at a Feb. 11 Port Richey council meeting, and police are dealing with it as best as possible.
“Arrests are not always the answer,” Brown said. For the moment, however, that’s the best tool officers have to combat the crime, he said.
“It’s an ongoing battle,” Brown said as prostitutes shift between several spots in the city.
Councilwoman Nancy Britton recalled that neighborhood groups in the past enjoyed some success in suppressing crime near their homes.