Sarasota, FL

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Sarasota is located on the southwestern coast of Florida in Sarasota County near Bradenton, and has a population of approximately 58,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as substantial problems in the city, and residents have complained to police about prostitution in multiple neighborhoods. At least five cases of homicide targeting women being sold in commercial sex have occurred in the city, several of which remain unsolved, and at least two convicted serial killers who have targeted prostituted women have operated in the city and surrounding areas. Among the other crimes documented within the context of the sex trade have been assault, rape, drug and weapons offenses, and child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in criminal codes).

In response to such problems, police have targeted consumer-level demand for prostitution. The Sarasota Police Department has conducted reverse stings since 1982, with the largest resulting in over thirty arrests. Law enforcement officials have also conducted web-based reverse stings to target adults trolling the internet for commercial sex with adults and minors and have made dozens of arrests. Recent street-level operations have focused on different locations along North Tamiami Trail. The Sarasota Police Department posts the mugshots of arrested sex buyers and prostituted women on their website, in addition to seizing the vehicles of arrested sex buyers. Some news reports have provided the full names, dates of birth, and home addresses of arrested sex buyers. For example, in 2017, the Sarasota Police Department conducted a sting that resulted in the arrest of five male sex buyers and the impoundment of two of the sex buyers’ vehicles. In July of 2019, twenty-five men were arrested during a four-day sting operation across Sarasota County, which focused on protecting children from online predators and human trafficking. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested men between the ages of 19 and 65 on suspicion of solicitation, after they responded to a number of ads posted online and engaged in sexually explicit written and verbal conversations. All of the arrestees traveled with the intent of having sex with a child.

Beginning on March 4th, 2014, a new program by the Sarasota Police Department was launched that will send letters to car owners who have been seen speaking to known prostituted persons operating along the North Tamiami Trail. The letter to the registered vehicle owner(s) states:

“Your vehicle was observed on (this date) at an area within the city limits of Sarasota known for prostitution related crimes. The driver or occupant of your vehicle engaged in conversation with either: (1) a known prostitute (an individual who has been previously convicted of a violation of Florida States 796.07) or (2) an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a prostitute.”

In October 2014, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that only five “Dear John” letters had been sent since the adoption of the tactic earlier that year. When asked about the limited number of letters sent by police, an SPD representative reported that while the department is “still sending letters however they are few and far between… because of the proactivity by the Sarasota Police Department on the North Trail area,” adding that SPD officers arrested 73 sex buyers between January 1 and October 14, 2014.

That same month, the SPD announced it had developed and would release a televised public service announcement warning local sex buyers that the department would continue to conduct reverse stings to arrest those soliciting sex in Sarasota. According to a local news affiliate:

“In a scene, you see a woman walking along a street. An officer’s voice says, ‘Is this a prostitute or a police officer? Do you think you can tell the difference? Roll the dice if you dare.'”

A news report from July of 2017, included discussion of tactics used in Sarasota. The chief assistant state attorney in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties said that that those arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Sarasota must attend a “john school,” a one-day class emphasizes direct consequences like sexually transmitted diseases as well as the suffering of trafficking victims. Sarasota also impounds the cars of the men police arrest on these stings, publishes press releases with sex buyers’ pictures, and may send letters addressed to the vehicle’s owner that states that someone in the car was interacting with a prostitute or with an undercover officer posing as a prostitute.

In August of 2020, another reverse sting conducted by the Sarasota Police Department resulted in the arrest of four male sex buyers. This particular operation was conducted by a joint task force comprised of the Sarasota Police Department Narcotics Unit in addition to the Patrol Division. Like in previous stings, law enforcement focused on the well-known North Tamiami Trail, an area famous for solicitation. In this particular case, the names and ages of the men arrested were made public in addition to the charges they now have pending.

John School:

The organization, More Too Life, operated by Dr. Brook Bello, offers a “john school” program called Restorative Justice End Demand Education or (RJEDE™) also called Demanding More in Miami/Dade County is an up to 8-hour course, offered in English and Spanish, in person or online, that is focused on human trafficking and prostitution prevention. The program was created by Dr. Brook Parker-Bello of Youthiasm® founder of More Too Life, Inc.

To learn more about the RJEDE program, click HERE.

“Our main-stream court appointed Demanding More with RJEDE™ in Florida is the first state approved course of its kind in partnership with states attorney Offices in Miami/Dade and the Advocate Program. Also in Sarasota County and Manatee County and part of Demanding More with our Restorative Justice End Demand Education. This mainstream course is contracted, and court appointed geared toward men who violated, are in recovery, incarcerated, pre and post jail or volunteer. It provides comprehensive education to men and boys along with sexual offenders, buyers, and men at risk of committing sexual violence or porn addiction in order to ignite honor and educate men and boys on their power they have.”

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

SOAP Orders:

“Dear John” Letters:

Public Education:

John School:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Local Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution, Related Violence in the Area:

State Florida
Type City
Population 57787
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