NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Sheriff's Office caught 24 people soliciting prostitutes in a four-day sting last week that stretched along U.S. 19 from New Port Richey to Hudson, Sheriff Chris Nocco announced Monday.
Deputies also took into custody four women who had advertised their services on the Internet.
Nocco said the department's philosophy in fighting prostitution is to target the solicitors.
"These are the people who are allowing prostitution to occur," he said during a news conference.
And while law enforcement plays a role in fighting prostitution, the sheriff said, success requires a broader approach.
"You can't always arrest yourself out of a situation," he said. "It needs to be a community effort."
Nocco stressed the importance of code enforcement within the county, to ensure that abandoned buildings and homes, often utilized by prostitutes, don't remain standing. And he called on legislators to enact tougher laws against running a prostitution ring.
While the sting did not yield any victims of human trafficking, sheriff's officials also announced a series of initiatives that will reduce the amount of trafficking within the county. Deputies are developing a video to show students in schools what trafficking looks like. Additionally, Sheriff's Office personnel will train emergency room workers to identify signs of human trafficking.