NEW PORT RICHEY — Previous prostitution stings along the U.S. 19 corridor — including "Operation Get the Girls" and "Operation Get the Girls II" — have netted dozens of arrests.
Over the past two weekends, New Port Richey police launched a sequel.
From July 18 to Friday, local officers, along with Pasco sheriff's deputies and Zephyrhills police, arrested 33 people: seven on prostitution charges and 26 on charges of soliciting a prostitute.
On the first weekend, undercover police posed as both prostitutes and johns. Teams of officers were stationed along U.S. 19 between Main Street and the Pithlachascotee River.
On Friday, the teams set up near U.S. 19 and Green Key Drive for a nine-hour sting. The operation west of U.S. 19 was dubbed "Motel Rendezvous," while the east side was "Operation Johnny Come Lately."
"It's supply and demand," said New Port Richey Lt. Jeff Harrington, a community services division commander. "We tried to address (prostitution) from both perspectives."
Police also made three arrests on outstanding warrants, three felony drug arrests and one misdemeanor drug arrest, according to a news release. They seized 369 grams of marijuana, 20.5 grams of cocaine and 94 doses of ecstasy.
Police have carried out prostitution stings along U.S. 19 for years in response to complaints from businesses and residents, Harrington said.
Resident Betty Lindley said police have done a good job, but the problem still exists even after all the arrests. "We saw one prostitute walking by today," she said Monday. "It gets disgusting."
Nomaan Merchant can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6244.