Dear New Port Richey, Florida,
there, it's been a while since we touched base. Soz about that. I've
been away writing books and getting up to no good in the UK; you've been
busy increasing your suburban sprawl to the point where there is now no
clear boundary between you and the rest of the West Central Florida
region (a.k.a. "the bit too far west of Disney").
Anyway, I thought we should probably catch up after you recently announced a new plan to arrest sex workers in the city limits.
As I am arguably the city's best-known export, and certainly its
best-known prostitute export, I'm surprised you didn't run this by me
first. Because this plan of yours? I'm telling you this now, it ain't
Just to catch up the rest of the folks reading this -
the grandees of New Port Richey got tired of rigging elaborate stings
to entrap sex wokers, so are giving cops free rein to arrest people who
tick any three of eight "behaviours" off a list. These behaviours
include asking if someone is a cop, getting into and out of cars at the
same place by the road, trying to attract attention of drivers, and
You know who else asks if you're a cop? People who are
trying to get help in an emergency. You know who else gets into and out
of cars by the road every day? Students and workers waiting for their
carpool. You know who tries to attract the attention of people driving
by on US 19? Anti-abortion protestors. Last time I checked, New Port
Richey had all of these in abundance.
That's the problem with
these kinds of laws, you see. Profiling has a false positive rate
greater than zero, and some of those false positives will no doubt
lawyer up. Also, picking up people because you think they might possibly
commit a crime in the future is not the same as detecting people who
are actually breaking the law. It is - hm, how you say? - oh yeah, now I
remember the word. "Unconstitutional." (My time in Florida's schools
did not go to waste, as you can see.)
And while we're on the
topic of what's legal and what's not, please explain to me what the
point of criminalising sex workers is again? Because harassing people
over a victimless crime seems like a pretty poor use of resources.
when I lived in Florida I knew a few women who were out there selling
sex on the streets. Not one of them ever said, "you know what would
change my life in a positive way? A mandatory minimum jail sentence and a
thousand dollar fine." For the most part they were just trying to get
by day to day, put food on the table, hoping maybe for something better
someday. Jail is not that something better.
Remember how that
Prohibition thing worked out with booze? The War on Drugs with drugs?
Yeah, this is bound to backfire, too. The people you're trying to target
- some of whom really are vulnerable - will be getting criminal records
instead of a helping hand.
Meanwhile, the indoor sex workers
like me who can easily dodge these ham-fisted vice moves will continue
making money, because the truth is you can't stop the world's oldest
Florida's an odd place, I'll grant you that, and it
can be tough to set yourself apart when virtually every other town and
city in the state has attracted international attention for doing
strange stuff. Why, just down the road we have Clearwater, a place
that's both the spiritual HQ of Scientology and the world HQ of Hooters restaurants. It's hard to compete with that kind of weird.
this approach is not the way forward. Becoming well-known for something
you didn't exactly plan on is kind of a bummer. I feel your pain. You
know what? Sometimes you have to roll with the hand you're dealt. Like,
maybe offering the sex workers passing through the Pasco County law
enforcement system options other than going to jail? Or - if you're
feeling like pushing the boat out a bit - letting adults mind their own
New Port Richey, you and me parted ways a while ago.
But that doesn't mean there isn't still a part of you with me, and a
part of me with you. I'd really appreciate it if you could do me a solid
and reconsider this ill-thought idea. Otherwise I'm going to have to
keep telling people I'm from this town, and from what I gather, that
would probably rub you up the wrong way.
Sunshine and kisses,