Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Lewd Acts Disrupting Venice Life

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Lewd Acts Disrupting Venice Life

Article excerpt

VENICE

FLASHER: Having arrested 2 men so far, police say a 3rd predator is still on the prowl

When Brooke Banach and Chelsea Briggs left the gym Monday after a late-night workout, the 20-year-old college students said they were greeted by a disturbing sight.

As they sat on the hood of a friend's car about 11:45 p.m., a man stared at them and began performing a lewd act.

"I didn't know what to think because I was just so shocked," Banach said of the incident, which happened near the YouFit Health Club on Jacaranda Boulevard. "We were really, really creeped out and grossed out."

Similar scenes have been reported with alarming frequency around this city, a place typically so placid it has been compared to Andy Griffith's fictional "Mayberry."

In less than two weeks, there have been at least 10 incidents in which three different men have reportedly exposed themselves to women in public places.

Venice Police Chief Tom McNulty called the number of incidents highly unusual. Asked how many cases his department usually receives in such a period, he said, "Usually, none."

Barak Asher, a licensed clinical social worker in Venice, was reluctant to speculate on whether extensive media coverage of the cases had emboldened the latest predator, who is accused of three incidents since last Friday.

"He would have to already be in that state of mind or have already flashed before," Asher said.

Two suspects linked to the other cases have been arrested.

Asher said the incidents can be traumatic to victims, although none of the episodes have involved physical contact.

"It would be similar if someone came up to a person with a knife and said, Move!'" Asher said. "Even if the person wasn't stabbed, they would still be traumatized."

The man who exposed himself to Briggs and Banach Monday night is also suspected of flashing a jogger Monday morning near the North Bridge portion of Legacy Trail. …

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