Sarasota, Florida -- Prostitution, known as the "world's oldest profession," is a business other businesses along North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota want shut down.
Sarasota Police may have found the answer.
North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota is lined with hotels, competitors in business, but most are united on one common problem that keeps some customers away.
"Sometimes people come here and say they don't want to stay here by looking at the area 'people' walking around. The 'people' meaning the prostitutes and drug dealers," says Jay Patel, owner of the Regency Inn and Suites for seven years.
Patel and his staff have taken surveillance video and pictures of the prostitution and shown it to Sarasota Police. He's also gated his hotel, landscaped it to help hide the activity on North Tamiami Trail and says it's helped some.
Customers on Trip Advisor give his hotel 4½ out of 5 stars and 85% of customers who comment recommend him. Customers write comments such as: "very pleasant stay," and "great place on a budget."
However, despite the good write-ups on Trip Advisor, Patel says his customers consistently complain about the prostitution which he says turns away about 20-30 percent of his business which adds up to $40,000 to $50,000.
"The victim is the community, the business owners and the residents there," says Sgt Demetri Konstantopoulos with the Sarasota Police Department.
Sarasota Police have a new weapon in the fight against prostitution -- a warning letter.
"The goal of the letter is to be another deterrent," explains Konstantopoulos.
Police are mailing the letter to registered vehicle owners whose vehicle may have been seen in an area where there are complaints of suspected criminal activity.
The letter tells the registered vehicle owners:
Read: Sarasota Prostitution Advisory Letter
"Your vehicle was observed on (this date) at an area within the city limits of Sarasota known for prostitution related crimes. 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."
Sgt. Konstantopoulos says the letter is for informational purposes and anyone who receives the letter is not facing criminal charges. He says five letters have been mailed one car is a marked company car. The letter includes a case number allowing one to receive more details about the incident.
"We're not accusing anybody of anything just letting them know we are out there, we are watching. We have a 'No Tolerance' policy in the City of Sarasota for prostitution," he explains.
Police say the letter is a strong warning, one owners like Patel hope will do the trick.
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