ST. PETERSBURG — After complaints from local businesses, St. Petersburg police are cracking down on prostitution.
Police made 13 arrests in two sweeps this month along 34th Street North. The nine women and four men were arrested for crimes connected to soliciting prostitution and possession of drugs.
Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the sweep was part of an ongoing effort to curb prostitution.
“What we find is that a lot of other crime comes with the prostitution; we end up making drug arrests,” she said.
Police conducted sweeps on Wednesday and on Aug. 15. Many of the arrests were made about 7 a.m.
“We find that workers will stop and engage with prostitutes on their way to work and again during lunchtime,” Fernandez said.
She said the citywide effort will continue and police will focus particularly on the most active areas. “We’re going where the problem is,” she said.
Sgt. Ed Borelli said most of the investigations are undercover. Certain parts of the city tend to draw more solicitation than others but, based on police activity, that can be fluid.
“It comes and goes. Usually what happens is we displace it. ... We’ll clean that area up, and then we’ll get complaints somewhere else in the area,” Borelli said.
A heavy police presence in active areas sends a message to people that they are being watched, Borelli said. He said the situation in St. Petersburg isn’t unusual.
“It’s pretty much the same thing across the county. ... We’re just doing what we can to combat it,” he said.