Prostitution problem on Westside?

Residents say drugs, prostitutes getting out of hand in neighborhood

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prostitution and drugs.

Residents of one Westside neighborhood said that's what they're dealing with on a daily basis.

The I-TEAM went to the neighborhood off Old Middleburg Road and Noroad to see for ourselves.

It's not an area that most Jacksonville residents would consider a prostitution highway, but around 10 a.m. Thursday, our I-TEAM investigator drove through the area and was propositioned within minutes.

Reporter: What's going on?
Woman: What are you doing?
Reporter: I'm just hanging.
Woman: Can I hang with you?
Reporter: Where you going?
(She tries to open the car door.)
Reporter: No, it's OK. That's OK.
Woman: Where am I going? Come here, I want to talk to you. You're not going to let me in?
Reporter: No, I can't do that. What's going on?
Woman: I wanted to give you some (sex act).
Reporter: You're going to get me some (sex act)?

That kind of proposition is something that happens all the time in the area, according to nearby residents.

Some of them have been complaining to the sheriff and other city leaders for years.

One resident, who asked to be identified only as Bob because he fears retaliation from the prostitutes and drug dealers, sent photos of women working the area to the mayor and the sheriff. (Note: News4Jax has blurred the people in the pictures because they have not been arrested for crimes.) Bob said the women constantly walk the streets and have threatened others in the neighborhood.

“If you just slow down, they'll walk right over to you. There are so many prostitutes in the area, and the reason they are there is because of drugs, and that means the drug dealers are here. This is a problem in the neighborhood. If the girls are here, the drug dealers are going to be here. This has been going on for a long, long time, for years,” Bob said. “I just wish (the police) would start pushing and picking up these girls regularly.”

WATCH: Possible prostitution problems in Westside neighborhood

Becca, who also declined to give her last name, said she feels unsafe living in the neighborhood with her children.

“I own (my home), and we thought about moving to get away from this area, because it's just -- it's horrible,” she said.

Bob said he rents out his mobile home, which was recently raided by police because of drug activity.

He said police arrested the drug dealers but let the prostitutes who were in the home go free.

Bob said he had no idea that those people were living in his home, because they are not the ones he rented the mobile home to.

“I check out their police record and eviction records. I give them a key, and then they turn around, and how am I supposed to know they gave the key to somebody else?” Bob said.

The I-TEAM took Bob's concerns to the sheriff's office.

UNCUT: Jim Piggott's interview with head of vice unit

Lt. Paul Resitivo, who heads the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office vice unit, said the sheriff's office is well aware of what’s happening. He said his unit is working undercover in the area looking for drug dealers and prostitutes.

“They are getting help,” Resitivo said. “They may not see it right off the bat, because if it's a long-term investigation, where we are working that area for drugs with prostitution, with anything else going on in that specific area, they may not receive the results right away, because there's undercover issues where we are not going to be making arrests right away.”

According to JSO, officers have made 35 arrests in the area in the last year:  29 for prostitution, five for solicitation, and one for living off the earnings of a prostitute, or pimping.

But people here hope to see more.

“You call the police, and by the time the police get here, the prostitutes have been picked up and dropped off in another area,” Becca said. “They don't get here in time.”

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