CINCINNATI - As the hand-held walkie talkie-type cell phone lets out a loud beep, signaling the undercover sergeant to talk, he says, "Yea, go ahead."
The officer on the other end describes a woman.
"Female, white, brunette hair, brown sleeveless with straps shirt, blue jean shorts, sandals and a small white purse. Same location... same results."
She looks like a prostitute, but she's undercover as well.
The Cincinnati Police Department's vice unit took part in a nationwide sting operation to catch men soliciting for sex from a prostitute, also known as "Johns."
The sting involved the following agencies:
-Cook County Sheriff Police Department (Illinois)
-Aurora Police Department (Illinois)
-Cincinnati Police Department (Ohio)
-Elgin Police Department (Illinois)
-Las Vegas Police Department (Nevada)
-Los Angeles Police Department (California)
-Phoenix Police Department (Arizona)
-Newport News Police Department (Virginia)
"The mission here is to reduce the opportunity for the John to engage in sex for hire through enforcement and education," said the undercover vice specialist.
For two days, covering three shifts, undercover officers played both the part of the prostitute and the officers that busted the men.
His cell phone beeps: “Red ball cap, red, Cincinnati Reds ball cap on backwards.”
He’s talking to the “decoy” prostitute. But then walks away.
"The problem is what they do to the neighborhoods. So that's why we do it. I personally wouldn't want prostitutes hanging outside of my door," said the officer, as he sits inside his unmarked car, awaiting the next arrest to assist in.
But the prostitutes keep ending up on the streets and Johns keep soliciting their services because there's no room in the jail system, said the officer.
"We don't have a lot of second offender Johns. The prostitutes, on the other hand, almost all of them, 98 percent are repeat offenders," he said. "Most of them have six, seven, eight arrests. They just process them and kick them out."
None of the offenders are staying in jail for soliciting a prostitute, the officer said.
"The Johns get hit with a monetary fine and that's the most bite we have right now with the jail situation," he said.
Mid-day, they get, what they call, a lunch rush.
"This is when we're real busy, the lunch hour. It's like guys, do what they do at their lunch hour."
The price is right for some—but illegal for all.
The officer’s phone beeps in with: "The offense is $10 for oral sex."
The charge: solicitation. The officer explains.
"It's offering to perform sex or have sex performed on yourself or another in exchange for anything of value," he said. "You know there's girls out there soliciting today that would settle for a chicken dinner in exchange for sex."
So, what happens next?
The Johns are arrested and charged with solicitation—a misdemeanor. They post bond and have a court appearance. If found guilty they attend a “John Education” session.
"We just try to educate the gentlemen and possibly ladies on the affects that they're having on themselves and the community when they engage in prostitution."
The immediate punishment is the mode in which they solicit. Their car.
"If they're the owner of the vehicle, it also gets impounded and there's a $500 civil site that is imposed upon the offender."
As one John is arrested, he questions: "My car is gone?" The officer placing his hand on the John’s head to put him in the squad car answers: "Your car is getting towed, sir."
"They don't do much to them, but taking their car away is not good," the officer said. "We don't lock people up here for these type of offenses and I've been talking and pushing for a graduated penalty on solicitation for repeat offenders."
In total, 32 johns were arrested during the sting—six others were arrested during the sting for various charges. The total number for all cities that participated was 216 arrests for solicitations. A total of 223 arrests were made (including solicitations as well as other offenses during the sting) and 247 charges nationwide.
To view all totals, go to http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/Johnsarrestpreliminarydatafinal.pdf .
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