Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Southeast Seminole Heights residents decry increase in prostitution

SOUTHEAST SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — On a recent evening in Southeast Seminole Heights, Michael Ferlita drove by six prostitutes standing on the corner of Nebraska Avenue, about 1 1/2 blocks from his home. It's nothing new in an area that for years has been known for such activity.

But for Ferlita, 45, this was different. The police had cleaned up the neighborhood for a while, but Ferlita says the number of prostitutes has increased dramatically over the past several months, and he's getting sick of shooing them away.

"It's come back like a swarm of bees, and we're kind of getting short of patience," he said.

A slew of residents have written their frustrations on neighborhood blogs and even sent a media release by e-mail Tuesday titled "Seminole Heights Neighbors are becoming outraged with TPD." The police aren't doing enough, and Mayor Pam Iorio had not responded to their complaint letters earlier this week, the e-mail said.

Neighbors were considering an organized protest at City Hall.

But Maj. Gerald Honeywell of the Tampa Police Department said the stretch of Nebraska in Southeast Seminole Heights has always been a problem, and he hasn't noticed a drastic increase. In August, he said, police arrested 17 prostitutes.

Authorities see a lot of the same people on the streets, with some prostitutes and johns coming from as far as Clearwater, Lakeland, Sarasota and even Zephyrhills. Typically, when the police step up pressure, the prostitutes just move to surrounding neighborhoods.

"We've never been able to figure out why they pick this area," Honeywell said.

In response to the complaints, police hope to augment their partnership with the Seminole Heights Neighborhood Watch Patrol program.

The neighborhood program was effective for its first five years, said Sherry Genovar-Simons, president of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. She thinks the downturn in the economy may have caused the resurgence of prostitutes.

Police and the neighborhood association will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Police Department's District 3 office, 3808 N 22nd St., to discuss a plan of attack. Honeywell said the patrol program could involve officers riding along with residents in their vehicles, rather than marked cruisers, searching the area for violators.

"The best thing to do is just work together," Honeywell said. "We've already stepped up the patrol, but we need to get the citizens involved."

Ferlita said the plan is dangerous, and residents shouldn't be asked to take the matter into their own hands.

"No tax-paying citizen should be responsible for cleaning up illegal acts on the streets," he said.

Genovar-Simons disagrees: "We live on every street, and we see what goes on," she said. "They could put a million TPD officers, and they wouldn't see what we see on a day-in and day-out situation."

Eric Smithers can be reached at (813) 226-3339 or at

Southeast Seminole Heights residents decry increase in prostitution 09/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 28, 2008 12:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to


    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter


    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.