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Florida police use cameras to track cars in red-light districts

In the infamous town of Sanford, Fla., police decide to photograph license plates of those suspected of seeking out prostitutes and then send the registered owners of the cars a warning letter.

A license to send a warning letter?
ClickOrlando Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Please imagine that your live-in lover goes to get the mail and sees a letter.

She opens the letter and discovers images of your car and a warning. The letter insists that your car has been seen loitering with intent to solicit a prostitute and that you should never, ever, ever do it again.

Who has sent this letter? A concerned citizen? A former jealous lover? No, your local police force.

This is the scheme now illuminating the lives of the people of Sanford, Fla.

As ClickOrlando reports, the police have decided that they will use special license-plate-reading cameras to, as it were, name and supposedly shame so-called johns.

These are the (often) men who drive by slowly and sometimes repeatedly in the attempt to find a pay-for-pleasure arrangement.

Some might imagine that the police's wheeze has some kinks.

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The Sanford police, though, insist that they are playing it straight.

Police representative Shannon Cordingly told ClickOrlando: "We're not going to be generating letters for every vehicle that drives by slow or circles. Obviously, the officer has common sense to know whether or not this vehicle's actually looking for a prostitute or if they happen to be lost."

The words "obvious," "police," and "common sense" might not exactly have a perfect harmony for some -- especially in Sanford, where the force wasn't obviously garlanded with universal praise after the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Clearly, there are many barriers to success here. For one, what if a friend, a co-worker, a relative, your pastor, or your shrink has borrowed your car?

The Sanford police, though, regularly performs prostitution sting operations, claiming neighbors complain about the noise.

The force insists that only the most experienced officers will be in charge of deciding what's really going on, as they espy the nighttime comings and goings.

Lt. Joe Santiago, though, summed up the police's confidence with an experienced eye: "If you're loitering in the city at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning or 3 o'clock in the morning after the bars let out and you're in some of these neighborhoods and you're in and out, in and out, in and out, yeah, that would kind of flag it."

At this moment, I want to make a joke. However, I feel I cannot compete with Lt. Joe Santiago.