Sarasota News Leader

03/14/2014

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THE NEW 'SCARLET LETTER' OPINION EDITORIAL EDITORIAL I f y o u a r e n e w t o Sarasota, please be advised that the women lingering along a stretch of the North Tamiami Trail are not affiliated with the local Chamber of Commerce or the tourism office. Even though they might look like knowledgeable locals, it is best not to ask them for directions or other advice. T h a t i s b e c a u s e t h e S a r a s o t a P o l i c e Department, at the direction of Chief Bernadette DiPino, has instituted a constitu- tionally questionable new program whereby any motorist observed stopping to converse with these women will find himself the recip- ient of a new kind of "scarlet letter" — one in which the owner of the vehicle is warned by mail that the driver of the vehicle was observed engaged in potentially illegal activity. As of March 4, any vehicle stopped in this ill-defined "forbidden zone" is considered suspect for engaging in "prostitution related crimes" if anyone in the vehicle talks with any of the women along the street. Of course, the subject of this conversation must remain unknown to the police, since it is illegal to secretly record such conversations between two people not committing any criminal act. DiPino and the SPD are not deterred by such limitations, however. If you stopped, you must be looking for a prostitute. And if you are a woman standing on the side of the street, you must be a prostitute. And if the two of you OPINION

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