New Port Richey hopes new law will curb prostitution

9:42 PM, Nov 12, 2013   |    comments
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New Port Richey, FL -- New Port Richey has passed a new ordinance aimed at cracking down on prostitution.

City officials admit it's been a persistent problem which has been leading to other crimes as well.

But is their new law, and the expanded power it grants the city's police officers, legal?

Without the new law, New Port Richey cops were left to battle prostitution the only way state law would let them- with elaborate sting operations.

But those are labor intensive, expensive and they take away resources from other law enforcement activity.

Not to mention, it's a futile effort, says Chief Kim Bogart, to try make the problem go away.

"And it does not," says Chief Bogart, "It comes back around you."

An example? A 10 News investigation this past February revealed 270 police calls answered last year at a single location in New Port Richey. The Royal Palm Inn along U.S. 19.

STORY: Why hookers, drug dealers and felons are frustrating police

But city officials say the justice system's revolving door allows pimps, prostitutes and Johns to be right back at it in a matter hours.

"It's not sustainable the way we're doing it," said the Chief.

So New Port Richey has now adopted a new city ordinance, allowing cops to use a list of eight behaviors often associated with prostitution, including sexual gestures or verbal offers.

Exhibiting any three of the eight behaviors could lead to an arrest.

"I don't believe there's a match-up in there, of any of those eight, that wouldn't lead a reasonable person to believe that in fact that person is soliciting for prostitution," said Chief Bogart.

Under the new rules, a prostitute could feasibly be picked up every day. And after the first offense? It's a $1,000 fine and up to sixty days in jail.

Chief Bogart recognizes there may be some who question the constitutionality of the new ordinances - whether they violate free speech by singling out some people over others for waving or yelling out on a street corner.

A similar attempt in Miami was declared unconstitutional.

But Bogart, using Largo and St. Peterburg as a template, believes they are on solid legal ground with this ordinance.

It's a welcomed move, says Real Estate Broker Greg Armstrong.

His office sits right along US 19, with a front row view, he says, of the illegal activity.

"They'll go up and knock on the window and make the offering to you. Right here in front," says Armstrong.

A second part of the new law also makes it easier to arrest so-called Johns or people looking to pick-up prostitutes.

Between the two rules, Chief Bogart hopes word will get around pretty quickly.

"My goal is to make it impossible for a prostitute to do business in this city," he said.

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