A dozen people were arrested Wednesday and Thursday for soliciting prostitution in a sting operation the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office organized with undercover cops after running an ad online offering services.
The arrests took place the same week that Obtravies Watkins, 34, was arrested after allegedly kidnapping, raping and brutalizing a 25-year-old woman he said he picked up in Daytona Beach for paid sex. Watkins faces an attempted murder and rape charges. But the sting operation was not related to that incident.
“This operation was planned before the Watkins incident earlier this week so they weren’t in any way related,” Sheriff’s spokesperson Brittany Kershaw said.
“The investigators were aware of prostitution activity in Flagler County so they wanted to do an investigation to find out how much of this is going on in our community. That’s why they did this operation.”
Some 100 people inquired in response to the ad, which was placed on the website backpage.com, but only 12 showed up at a room at the Days Inn in Palm Coast, off of Palm Coast Parkway, near Home Depot.
Typically, as one of the arrest report states, a respondent would pay $60 for a “massage” and go from there. In one case, a respondent asked the under-cover cop if she was, in fact, a cop–who told him that a massage was “pretty boring.” At that point the respondent looked at his genitals and looked back at the undercover cop, implying a desire for sexual acts, then got “completely naked without being asked.” (The ad the sheriff’s office posted had not mentioned massages.)
Soliciting prostitution as a first offense is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida, which can result in a jail term of up to 60 days and up to a $500 fine, though jail terms are rare. A second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to a year in jail. If the solicitor is soliciting a minor, it is immediately a second-degree felony with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. But in none of the cases this week was underage soliciting in play.
All those who showed up and were arrested were men. Seven were from Palm Coast, one from Bunnell, one each from Palatka, St. Augustine and Jupiter. One man’s address was listed simply as Pine Gardens—no town, no state. They ranged in age from 19 to 66, with the average clocking in at 36.
All but two with charged with soliciting prostitution. One was charged additionally with purchasing or possessing a controlled substance, and one, Jeffrey Nowden, a 32-year-old resident of 76 Providence Lane in Palm Coast, was charged with many additional charges after he proposed to pay for sex with drugs. He allegedly had in his possession cocaine and heroin laced with fentanyl. He was charged with soliciting, heroin possession, cocaine possession with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violating probation: he’d been found guilty previously as a habitual offender after an arrest for driving on a suspended license with knowledge.
“I’m not sure what that really tells us about what’s going on in our community, but it does show that it’s at least going on with some people,” Kershaw said. “A lot of people like to claim it’s a victimless crime, but typically in those situations there’s drugs involved.” She added: “It’s definitely something we don’t want in our community.”
It isn’t clear to what extent the sting revealed the extent of prostitution’s presence in Palm Coast and Flagler County, or its whereabouts, though searching for “prostitution” and “Palm Coast” on the Internet reveals something of a smorgasbord of choices, including a number of so-called escort services in Flagler and Volusia listed on “The Real Yellow Pages” (A An Divas, Fantasia’s and 1 800 Jet Doll all advertise “Serving the Palm Coast Area”) or the more direct page called “Prostitutes in Palm Coast,” which states: “Login to the web’s safest website where prostitutes in Palm Coast can meet local people from the safety of their home or cell phone, join Find Prostitutes for Free and start meeting up.”
Attempts were made to arrest actual prostitutes as part of what the sheriff’s office termed “Operation Red Light to Green Roof” (a reference to the county jail’s green roof). “However,” a sheriff’s release indicated later this afternoon, “no women showed up to meet the undercover ‘John.’ Most women cited transportation issues as their reason for not making the trip, as they were coming from surrounding counties.”
“The good news for Flagler County is that it does not appear we have prostitutes in our community,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in the release. “The bad news is that there are many people from Flagler County trying to solicit prostitution.”
The Sheriff’s Office’s arrest reports state that the local ad was placed “on a web site known by law enforcement to be used to solicit prostitution.” It did not list specific services on offer beyond stating that the services would be provided by a female.
Arrests for prostitution are very rare in any of Flagler’s law enforcement agencies. The Sheriff’s Office has conducted several sting operations at Graham Swamp in particular, but following specific complaints that men were exposing themselves publicly there, or using Graham Swamp to meet up to exchange sexual favors, though prostitution appears not to have been involved in those instances.
Just more upstanding Palm Coast citizens doing their best to screw up this once quiet town. Keep up the good work Flagler County Sheriff Dept.
jus legalize prostitution already. There would be a lot less jerks in the world if they could jus get some sex. plus it would create jobs and provide a safer environment for the Johns and the Janes. This has been going on in Flagler forever, might as well be taxed and safe
Old Hammock says
Days Inn = Workforce housing
The P section AGAIN?
Have to say PC has a lil bit of everything going on behind the curtain
@Maintaining amateur status
“…“The good news for Flagler County is that it does not appear we have prostitutes in our community,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in the release…”
The Sheriff is doing a fine job, but if he included souls for sale the jail wouldn’t have enough room.
Who ever would say there is NO prostitution in Flagler County is eat up with the dumb ass….just sayin.
Again, Palm Coast has proved to not be paradise….landscaped to look all pretty…..just don’t look at what’s inside. It is no wonder there are so many rentals in this city and why so many people have already left.
The Sheriff needs to get on foot and do the beat to find the crime. Presence….Presence….Presence…..
C'mon man says
I’m with Dave, make it legal and tax it. Who knows maybe Palm Coast will use the money to replace those hideous yellow flowers on Belleterre
Nothing surprises me anymore, but to make it legal is a very bad idea.
Not to many years from now they will have no need for stings. They will have robots for both men and women.
Welcome to Palm Coast…..the landscaping is deceiving. This is a horrible place to live and raise a family! The crime is rapid. For years we have been being convinced there is no crime in this community…..it was what we weren’t being told. Now that we have a hot dog Sheriff that likes to be in the spot light we learn of all the crime that is really out there. No wonder there are so many people bailing out of this area. This place is one stop shopping….prostitution, men exposing themselves. shootings, robberies, rapes, drugs, hit and runs, and corrupt politicians.
Yes there are at least that I know two with a long felon wrap in Volusia and Flagler bailed out all the time by their 2 elderly wealthy sugar daddies that bring them back to reside among us in the Palm Coast C section. Even there is one also with a long record in GH I know that I remember now and that is #3 bailed also by her wealthy boyfriend.
Unfortunately as they are also drug addicted they proven not rehab can help them at least for the last 7 years their records show.
The thing that I notice here is that “Backpage” is used as a soliciters vehicle (that’s according to a training I attended by the Volusia Sheriff’s Office on Human Trafficking) and if 100 people made responses you can only figure that twice that were looking. Very sad, very ugly.
What would be so bad about legal prostitution? It seems worse to try and tell adults what they can and can’t do when it comes to sex. We can keep our community members safer if the prostitutes were legally made to have disease tests,if using protection was a rule, and drugs were not allowed. Prostitution is not illegal to keep people who don’t use it safe, it’s the ones involved we are trying to protect, so let’s protect them with laws that make sense instead of banning something out right knowing it will be done anyways. Where is the sense in that? Plus taxes will go to out community
Dozen is nothing. Just go to https://daytona.craigslist.org/ and there are tons of people looking for sex. Women seeking women, women seeking men, men seeking women, men seeking men, what’s your flavor? You are never going stop the sex trade, just like you are never going stop drugs.
Wow… Hey guys i need publicity this week, so i can make stupid comments about the green roof. Plus as I wave people will have a face to go with my name in the parades Im in thru the end of the year. ….
So get out there and STOP the OLDEST PROFESSION known to mankind before Christmas.
As a friend of mine once told me, the only difference between prostitution and marriage is prostitution costs less, and you’re more likely to get laid …
What’s so bad about prostitution when everyone is screwing everyone and no one gets married anymore??? Isn’t this the same thing, when one has to pay for things even though they aren’t giving them green backs to the other participant because they live together are run together? Flagler County has been known for years for its wife swapping so how is that OK and being paid so wrong when the people involved are doing the same thing? Is something worth a value like a place to live, food, jewelry and paying some one green backs not the same when two people are doing the nasty???? Find something else to do Sheriff…like stop the drugs and robberies in this town!
Cimone. Sadler says
I lived on Clarendon court and my neighbor was ALWAYS on back page soliciting pro’s…
So true!!!!! LOL
Stings on men trying to get a piece is the weakest police work ever. Meanwhile, real crime is going on. I’d rather the consensual paid sex instead of my car or home being broken into. Ridiculous.
Have to agree with Dave, make it legal. Why are the politician so dumb?? Maybe because they get kick backs not to look into it. The world would be much better off!!!!
Old Lady says
From Grah, Swamp to Days Inn, just another day in Palm Coast and no one was killed
Dan Potter says
Take your clothes off and have sex. If you want to get married later that is ok. Adam and Eve were not married. We are not sure they even liked each other.