Police: Letters sent home will deter prostitution

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A new program by the Sarasota Police Department calls for letters to be sent to car owners who have been seen speaking to known prostitutes along North Tamiami Trail.

"Right now the city is pushing for a revitalization effort on the North Trail corridor," said Sgt. Demetri Konstantopoulos with the Sarasota Police Department. "We are trying to think outside the box and come up with new ideas to help solve the problem."

According to police, the department began sending the letters earlier this week.

The letter tells the registered vehicle owners, “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.”

Chief Bernadette DiPino says this is one tool the department is using to change the reputation of the North Trail. "The Sarasota Police Department is taking a ‘No Tolerance’ stance on prostitution. The City of Sarasota is beautiful place and community members are working to revitalize the North Trail."

"There is a misconception out there that just pulling over on the side of the road on North Tamiami Trail is going to get you a letter sent to the house. That is inaccurate," said Konstantopoulos.

The letter includes a case number that will be generated while documenting the incident. Police say the letter is intended as an advisory, and is not an accusation.

Yet, some are questioning whether the letter will do more harm than good.

"There is too much potential for innocent people to be embarrassed and have their reputations questioned. It will cause arguments between husbands and wives and parents and teens that are not founded in fact," said Andrea Mogensen, a civil rights attorney in Sarasota.

Konstantopoulos says police officers will be very, very cautious.

"We are going to make determinations case by case. These determinations arent going to be arbitrary at all. We do take it seriously, but we do want to change behavior on the North Trail," he said.