When Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco announced a dozen arrests connected to a human trafficking case last week, the news struck a nerve with County Commissioner Seth Weightman.
On Tuesday he asked fellow commissioners if they would be willing to revisit the regulations relating to adult businesses in Pasco County. According to reports on the trafficking case, a girl who ran away from her New Port Richey home late last year ended up working in adult businesses in Pasco and Pinellas counties.
The girl, who is 16, had sex with 12 different individuals, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. Weightman said the details that brought the girl into the world of traffickers concerned him and he wanted to see the county do whatever it needs to prevent any future cases like this one. He suggested that the commission ask the county attorney to help draft new reporting requirements by such businesses.
Weightman said he wanted to see rules not just for the clubs but also for stores that sell related products that feed into what he called “the X-rated businesses.”
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder said that Pasco based its adult business rules in its zoning regulations so that creating reporting requirements would mean revamping the approach that the county currently uses.
“I think that effort is well worth it,” Weightman said, adding that it is especially true since is Pasco trying to demonstrate its is a vibrant and healthy community.
When commissioners asked about the potential penalties for the accused sex offenders, a sheriff’s representative said the case was still ongoing and there were details he couldn’t share about it. Reportedly the girl is now in a safe environment where she is getting help.
Commissioner Gary Bradford suggested that the Sheriffs Office might want to consider pushing for having the assets of the offending adult businesses seized under anti-racketeering laws.
Commissioners Kathryn Starkey said that the county had worked on the ordinance now in place for some time. Efforts to outlaw public nudity, she noted, is a challenge because Pasco has several clothing optional communities. She said such businesses need to be in industrial areas and if they closed, they could not reopen. Starkey said she knew of a case where a business found a loophole.
She also said that code enforcement action at an adult club in Holiday might help curb its profitability She said patrons use property not owned by the club for parking and she wanted to see it closed off.
Commission Chairman Jack Mariano suggested that the county might be able to provide some incentive for adult businesses to change to a different, more acceptable venture. He suggested that updating the county rules for adult businesses could be discussed further at an upcoming meeting.