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Sheriff's focus on dance clubs is misplaced

Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon wants to keep exotic-dance bars in Pasco to a bare minimum, so to speak. Plenty of Pasco residents share his opinion that these are seedy, lascivious places that diminish their community. Give him credit for thinking about quality of life.

As far as law enforcement goes, however, there are more important problems for Pasco's top cop to tackle.

As unsavory as they are to some people, exotic-dance clubs do not pose a major crime problem. Drunken driving is the main concern. But the same could be said about any bar.

The sheriff thinks strip bars foster bad behavior, and he is determined to stem their proliferation in Pasco by pushing a new county ordinance to forbid the sale of alcohol in the presence of nude or seminude entertainers.

Chances are, exotic-dance bar owners will find a way to satisfy their customers no matter what Cannon does. And in this case his plan appears especially pointless because Pasco County's zoning code already governs what exotic dancers can and can't take off.

If these rules are being broken, someone should enforce them. But it makes no sense to outlaw alcoholic beverages around nude dancers, when nude dancing itself is already illegal in exotic-dance pubs.

Cannon appears to be trying to discourage exotic-dance club operators without putting his detectives on their tails and spending lots of his agency's money.

"We don't have the personnel to put into these bars to control (nude dancing)," he said. "But if you put the alcoholic beverage ordinance in there, it's a self-checking mechanism."

The sheriff of Pasco County can do better than that. If a law-enforcement problem exists at local saloons, he should address it. If not, he could find better ways to spend his time and energy than conjuring up new ways to clamp down on sleazy bars.

Just ask business owners in Hudson, who have suffered a series of burglaries in recent weeks, or distressed homeowners, who have had to wait more than 30 minutes for a deputy to respond to a call for help, or victims of con artists and unscrupulous construction contractors who are unable to recover their losses.

Cannon is a decent man who, like many of his neighbors, would prefer to see exotic-dance bars locate elsewhere. As the county's chief law enforcement officer, however, he has bigger problems to solve.