Cincinnati police undercover arrests on McMicken latest effort against prostitution

Sting nets five arrests of suspected 'johns'

CINCINNATI – He thought he'd cruise up McMicken for some quick paid-for sex.

Instead, 26-year-old Kahrie Burton found himself handcuffed and in the back of a police cruiser Tuesday afternoon. He was one of five accused johns Cincinnati police arrested as part of a one-two punch on fighting prostitution along the 2.3-mile stretch of McMicken Avenue.

The arrests come on the heels of the city barricading the area and amid calls from city leaders to make public all the names of those arrested soliciting a prostitute -- calls that came just four months after a prostitute was slain there.

Officials are energizing a push to focus and dissuade those prowling McMicken Avenue for prostitutes.

For three hours Tuesday afternoon, undercover vice section investigators arrested the five men – all between 26 and 35 years old – and charged them in connection with soliciting and loitering to solicit, police said.

RELATED: City Council holds special meeting to address prostitution in Over-the-Rhine
MORE: Hamilton mother describes journey into heroin addiction, prostitution, jail

In addition to Burton, Randy Larkin, 34, of Mount Healthy; Anthony Jones 35, of Over-the-Rhine; Johnny Hunter, 32, of Avondale; and Darnell Gaines, 28, of Cheviot, were booked into the Hamilton County jail.

The latest “reverse prostitution sting” is considered phase II of the city’s battle against prostitution in the McMicken corridor, officials said. Phase I was implemented last week when District 1 officers put up barricades to try to keep johns from cruising the street. The first barriers went up Wednesday along McMicken Avenue and two more are scheduled.

And from Columbus, Attorney General Mike DeWine told WCPO the issue of prostitution falls under the larger umbrella of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking occurs in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus -- not just in Bangkok,” DeWine said. “It takes intense efforts, it takes some resources, and a court that’s focused on that.

“I’m not going to tell council what to do, but it’s important to focus on the johns that are getting the service, and make them pay a heavier penalty. How council decides to that that is up to them.”

Councilmembers Amy Murray and Yvette Simpson proposed notifying spouses and establishing prostitution court as one way to crack down on johns.

Council is also considering:

  • Posting the names of convicted johns in local newspapers. Murray says some cities refer to that tactic as "shaming."
  • Notifying a spouse of a positive venereal disease test following a prostitution arrest.
  • Establishing a  "john school" program as a condition of a suspended sentence.
  • Raising fines in certain areas where prostitutes are often found.

The full council will voted on the proposals at its 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday.

What prompted Cincinnati police to examine new strategies to fight prostitution was the homicide of Jessica Revelee, 24, who was found in the middle of W. McMicken Avenue on Jan. 9 at about 2: 14 a.m. with a serious head injury. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

In 2013, Revelee was on Cincinnati Police District 1's 'Most Wanted' list for charges of drug possession, record show.

Her death served as a catalyst, said Police Spc. Nate Young.

During January’s District 1 town hall forum, when area residents voiced their concerns to police brass, they didn’t cite drug-dealing, truancy or violence as problems. Prostitution was their main concern.

“Their No. 1 issue was prostitution and then they cited the Revelee murder,” Young said.

Revelee was known to police as a heroin user and a prostitute, he said. Police say the strategy may help tackle a tricky problem of combating a crime in which the same people are being arrested for prostitution and released over and over again, a crime they use to support drug habits.

Young, a District 1 officer assigned exclusively to monitor prostitution activities in the McMicken Corridor, recognizes past enforcement efforts simply didn’t work.

“We knew we had to something,” Young said. “We had to figure out what else we can do other than arrest, repeat, arrest repeat – that’s the process we’ve been involved in for many years and we know that’s not working.”

With tougher laws to punish human traffickers and more awareness about those forced into sexual slavery, DeWine said Ohio residents cannot lose sight that human trafficking evolves into many forms.

“There certainly can be a link between human trafficking and prostitution,” DeWine said.” To detect that, you’d have to look back at the pimp who was getting drugs for (a prostitute), and she became dependent on the drugs and person.”

A 2012 U.S. Department of Justice study, titled “A National Overview of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Efforts,” concluded that efforts to reduce prostitution and sex trafficking by constraining supply have not been successful. Essentially, where demand is high, interfering usually results in a displacement as opposed to eradication.

Rather, the report found,

authorities should their focus efforts on the demand or the johns.

“ … it is indisputable that removing or reducing demand reduces or eliminates markets,” the report read in part.

It appears that is exactly what Cincinnati police officers are doing.

Reverse stings on the street occur in more than 900 cities and counties in the United States, the report concluded.

At least 71 percent of reverse stings “are conducted in response to complaints that police departments receive from residents and businesses,” the report determined.

READ: Crime and justice stories from Kareem Elgazzar
FOLLOW on Twitter: @ElgazzarBLVD

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