BROOKSVILLE — The men are from all over the North Suncoast, from places as far away as Inverness, New Port Richey, Homosassa and even nearby Spring Hill.
They are from all walks of life, "from lower income to middle class to upper class," the police said. They range in age from 20 to 78. But they all arrived in Brooksville for a singular, illicit purpose, police say: Searching for prostitutes.
Thirty-two men have been arrested during a five-day sting dubbed "Operation Working Woman" by the Brooksville Police Department. Officers targeted two areas in particular, the intersection of Jefferson Street and Ponce De Leon Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in south Brooksville.
The operation was conducted in tandem with another one aimed at drug dealers. Brooksville police set out Tuesday to arrest 13 people, including an unidentified 13-year-old boy, in that operation. It wasn't immediately clear how many people targeted in that operation were taken into custody Tuesday.
"We don't want these people doing business in Brooksville," Chief George Turner said. "We've seen a large increase in violent crime and some of it is attributed to prostitution and drugs. They all seem to be intertwined."
Turner noted both homicides in Brooksville this year involved suspects who were involved in either prostitution or drugs. Officers found drugs on the body of Isiah Lee Collins, who was fatally gunned down May 27; Treva Lynn Anderson, who is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Robert Rutherford in February, allegedly worked as a prostitute.
After receiving a number of complaints about criminal activity from nearby residents for the past few months, Turner and his officers began working on a way to clean up the city's streets.
Operation Working Woman ran from Sept. 10 through Monday, according to a release from the department. Each of the men arrested approached an undercover female officer and offered money in exchange for a variety of sexual acts, police say.
The men were each charged with a single count of solicitation for prostitution, a misdemeanor. Eric Mendoza, 20, of Spring Hill was additionally charged with possession of a controlled substance, and Aaron Clower, 35, of Brooksville faces charges of fleeing to elude and driving with a suspended license.
One suspect, William Lambrix, 28, of Ridge Manor is a convicted sex offender and faces a possible violation of probation charge.
In the drug-focused portion of the operation, the suspects were all set to be charged with sale and possession of cocaine.
"People know where to pick up a prostitute or maybe get some drugs," Turner said. "But we don't want that place to be Brooksville."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.