It has often been said that police work is the second oldest profession. The distinction of "oldest profession" goes, of course, to prostitution.
For as long as there have been men and women, there has been the exchange of valuables for sexual favors, though there rarely have been societies that allowed prostitution. Sanctions have varied from fines to death, yet prostitution has flourished in every stratum of society in every part of the world.
Prostitution takes many different forms from high-priced call girls who meet clients in hotel rooms to street prostitutes who ply their trade in public.
This article is designed to help you formulate a strategy to combat street level prostitution. It is being presented in February when the cold weather (in many cities) typically prevents street prostitutes from being outside too long. This down time in the street prostitution trade will allow you to develop a workable plan and align the necessary resources to put into place an effective enforcement apparatus when business picks up in the spring and summer.
Traditionally, police response to street prostitution has been to arrest the prostitutes. Many of these arrests are the result of expensive and manpower-intensive street sweeps. The number of officers involved, the hours worked, and subsequent processing and court time increase the cost of each street prostitution arrest.
Besides being expensive, street sweeps do not reduce prostitution and there is a chance that the sweeps may actually increase street prostitution. When a sweep is conducted, the absence of street prostitutes creates a void that is filled by other prostitutes. Also, many of the arrested prostitutes have no way to earn money to pay fines except through prostitution. Prostitutes may be exposed to more harm by working longer hours, in unfamiliar and unsafe terrain, and entertaining riskier clients.
Lately police strategy has shifted from attacking the supply to targeting the demand. Police arrest the clients who come from neighboring towns to procure the services street workers provide. Yet this tactic alone does not effectively reduce the demand for sexual favors. Any effective policy is going to incorporate a balanced attack against the suppliers and those who demand it.
An effective police response will also consider community mores. It has been argued that prostitution is a "victimless crime" engaged by two consenting adults. But this view does not consider that street prostitution offends the moral standards of many in the community. It also does not consider the nuisance that street prostitutes and their clients create for nearby neighbors and businesses. Individuals who are neither involved nor interested in the service are forced to watch as transactions are consummated.
Prostitution also attracts strangers to a neighborhood and provides a seedbed for other street level crimes, including illegal drug use. Street prostitution and the element it attracts can have a detrimental effect on an entire neighborhood. Legitimate businesses suffer as customers avoid the area. Residents must deal with the unsightly residue: soiled condoms, condom packages, and narcotic paraphernalia. Although street prostitution accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of all prostitution, it has the largest negative impact on the community.
A police strategy should not just be concerned with the negative impact on the neighborhood, but the negative impact on the prostitutes themselves.
Street level prostitutes generally occupy the lowest position in the street crime hierarchy. Among prostitutes, they tend to be the oldest or youngest practitioners. They lack the skills to get any other type of work. Many times they are saddled with family bills and an addiction which makes them both desperate for work and vulnerable to exploitation.
Financial problems, domestic situations, and drug abuse lead to personal decline among prostitutes. Most report being assaulted at least once a year. Contrary to popular belief, pimps do not protect prostitutes from violent customers-only from other pimps.
A small number of clients account for the majority of assaults, which typically go unreported. Police can help prostitutes avoid assaults by providing a list of "bad dates" detailing clients prone to assault.
Most street-level prostitutes ply their trade in transitional, rundown neighborhoods where residents often lack the motivation or political voice to oppose the prostitutes' presence. Prostitutes are often found around bars, motels, or adult entertainment sites.
Research shows that prostitutes usually work six to eight hours a day, five to six days a week. They will service three to five clients a shift. A transaction conducted outside usually takes about 10 minutes whereas one that takes place indoors usually takes 25 minutes.