1. News

New Port Richey acts to pare prostitution on U.S. 19

NEW PORT RICHEY — Prostitutes with criminal records known to police are poised to have a tougher time working along U.S. 19.

The City Council approved a first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that will give police more teeth in cracking down on rampant prostitution along the busy thoroughfare. A final reading is scheduled for Nov. 5.

The ordinance will allow police to arrest anyone inside city limits who has been convicted of prostitution, pleaded no contest to it, or had adjudication withheld for that charge who repeatedly tries to stop or engage passers-by in conversation, tries to stop a vehicle by waving or other gestures, or approaches a motorist, leaves with that person, returns to the same place and repeats the pattern with a different person.

Violators of the ordinance can face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. For a second offense, the fine ratchets up to $1,000.

"I think it's a great step in the right direction," said council member Jeff Starkey, who has been a vocal advocate for cracking down on prostitution on U.S. 19.

In other news, the fire department is getting some relief for a fire truck fleet that dates back to the early 1990s. The council approved spending about $435,000 for a new fire engine with a 750-gallon water tank.

The move comes after fire Chief Alex Onishenko warned the council that the age of the fleet was becoming a liability.

In recent months, the city's three fire engines and ladder truck have needed repairs. In July, the fire department was down to only one working engine for seven days after vehicles broke down, Onishenko wrote in a memo to the council.