The Investigators

Mar 13, 2008 12:15 PM

Prostitution Sting: Undercover with Tucson police

Tucson police have been putting pressure on prostitutes in the city and doubling the number of arrests in the last two years. In February, the Investigators took you along for the ride as police cracked down on prostitutes. This time around, the Investigators were invited to see a different kind of sting as police sought out guys looking for sex and threw them in the slammer.

A woman tells a man, "[I've] got a room right over here. What are you looking for?" Another woman responds to another man's request. "Thirty bucks? Okay. That works. [I've] got a bag over here. I'll meet you, okay?"

They work in the shadows of streetlights and in the harsh glare of headlights. A woman asks, "What do you [have] in mind tonight? What's that? You haven't been laid in a long time?"

But these women soliciting for sex are not prostitutes. They're police officers posing as decoys to lure men looking for sex.

An undercover cop asks, "How much money [do you have]?" He says, "Uh, 50." She asks, "50 bucks? Ok. What are you looking for?" He replies, "Half and half." "Ok, half and half," she answers.

The Tucson Police Community Response Team and Vice officers will arrest seven men tonight. Leslie Gallagher with the Tucson Police Department tells the Investigators, "A lot of it is a response to the community. They don't want prostitutes dragging people down in their neighborhood. They don't want people driving around their neighborhood looking for prostitutes."

Three female officers are working a stretch along Oracle Road. They're surrounded by undercover officers and wired with microphones, keeping up a constant chatter to keep the team informed about men who approach them.

One officer reports, "[He] waved at me as he was going by. Now he's turning again. [There's] like a black Ford [with a] camper shell. [It's] beat up [and] heading my way slow."

An undercover officer tells us, "It's a little scary when you walk up and you see weapons in the vehicle, and of course we have to verbalize that right away, and kind of obviously take some security measures ourselves. We can't give ourselves away."

Once the 'Johns' offer money for sex, the crime of soliciting has been committed and a team of arresting officers swoops in. One of the officers tells an arrested man, "From here we're going to take you to the station. You'll be booked and processed. And then from there you'll be taken to Pima County Jail."

Tucson police say they've seen a decrease in 'John' activity in the last year here on the west side where the problem is concentrated. And, as for those arrested, they say they're typically white men in their 30s.

Sgt. Jim Wakefield tells the Investigators, "They have a lot to lose... Family, you know, homes, jobs... They have a lot to lose."

And police say most Johns they arrest pay such a price that they're never caught doing this a second time. It's a small victory for people who live in these areas.

Sgt. Wakefield says, "They shouldn't have to worry about their daughters and moms or sisters walking down the streets and getting propositioned by these Johns picking [or] trying to pick a female up. That's the ultimate goal. I don't know if that's ever going to happen, but certainly we'll do what we can do."

Those arrested are booked and taken to jail. Most are released on bail the following morning. Most of the men we saw arrested that Friday night were, in fact, white and in their 30s. Though we did see several older men. One was in his 60s.

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