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A woman arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Santa Ana police Cmdr. Ken Gominsky chats with a woman arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Text messages from a man suspected of being a pimp are displayed on the cellphone of a woman arrested during a prostitution sweep Dec. Cigarettes, condoms and a cellphone are laid out on the sidewalk near a woman waiting to be processed by Santa Ana police Dec.
She was arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard. Manny Moreno process a woman who was arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Two women arrested during a recent prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard wait to be processed by Santa Ana police. Santa Ana police Cpl. Manny Moreno, left, and Officer Matt Lemmon, right, process a woman who was arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Santa Ana police Officer Joe Hamlin checks out text messages on the phone of a woman arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec.
Manny Moreno lo a woman into the back of a van during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Two women arrested during a prostitution sweep of Harbor Boulevard on Dec. Police first arrested Premer in the morning hours of June 9, She had been trying to engage in prostitution along the block of Harbor Boulevard, near well-trimmed business parks, a law school and a closed steakhouse.
The official charge was loitering to commit prostitution, a misdemeanor in California. The officers handcuffed her, booked her at police headquarters and then, like most suspected prostitutes, released her with a promise to appear for a future court date. Santa Ana police arrested her two weeks later at the same place, at nearly the same time and for doing the same thing. She was booked and released for a second time, saving jail space for those accused of more serious crimes. In both instances, police arrested Premer as part of organized sweeps. Uniformed and undercover officers patrolled the boulevard and targeted anyone suspected of selling, buying or arranging sex.
On Harbor, it can be like catching fish in a barrel. The Police Department set up a more complex operation in July aimed at luring prostitutes along the boulevard. Court records show Premer took the bait and agreed to sell sex to an undercover officer. Police charged her with a harsher misdemeanor, agreeing to engage in prostitution, bringing the total of charges to three in one summer. She potentially faced months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Despite thousands of arrests, women like Premer continue returning to Harbor Boulevard.
County prosecutors have filed nearly 5, prostitution-related cases sent over by Santa Ana police since In , Santa Ana police reported prostitution arrests, more than all other Orange County jurisdictions combined and more than most major police departments in the state. Area advocates, researchers and law enforcement authorities were stunned to learn how many prostitution arrests Santa Ana police make each year.
Most local agencies report few, if any. Millions of dollars in public resources have been spent. While some Santa Ana residents say there is now less prostitution, experts who study crime-fighting techniques say the initiative focuses on the wrong people and only provides temporary relief. In general, experts say, police should target men who encourage prostitution and should make greater efforts to connect women with social services.
Residents demanded action, so police made the issue a higher priority for officers and specialized units. But a decade later, police are still unsure whether the response is working, in part because they depend on unreliable methods to track prostitution.
They cite anecdotes or arrest statistics, which can vary wildly depending on enforcement decisions. Even on a chilly night on Dec. One team of undercover officers scanned the street for suspected prostitutes, and a second team of uniformed officers swarmed in to make the arrests. In just a few hours, they arrested nine women and a man suspected of being a customer. The women were mostly young adults and African American.
Some wore short skirts, leggings and high heels despite the degree temperatures. Others had furry jackets. Its parking lots fill up with commuters, pedestrians wait for buses and students attend classes at nearby schools. Only a few cheap motels and adult-themed businesses set it apart from many other boulevards in the county. But unlike many streets, Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana has earned a reputation as a marketplace for cheap sex. Drivers stop to ask everyday pedestrians how much they charge, and prostitutes solicit people at gas stations.
The industry is most active during rush hours or around bar closing, police say. But some of its traces last through the morning when children walk to school. Area residents have long complained about finding used condoms, syringes and defecation. Police hope the hundreds of arrests each year will deliver a message that Harbor Boulevard is no longer a tolerant environment for prostitution. Experts say one of the most challenging aspects of prostitution is its highly mobile nature. When one agency cranks up the heat, pimps and prostitutes move to another city.
And when that place becomes hostile, they move again. Harbor Boulevard is one stop in a broader prostitution circuit stretching across the southwest. Outside the county, police say the circuit stretches to other major West Coast cities. Over time, each place has earned a reputation for prostitution without substantial risk of punishment by the law. Multiple experts confirmed the regional prostitution circuit; the demographic profile of those arrested by police also supports at least some outside influence.
In , about half of those arrested for prostitution were African American. Only 2. Samantha, a Tustin woman who walked Harbor Boulevard in , estimated that 40 percent of prostitutes she met were from outside California, and most of the male pimps were from the Deep South. She said she rarely met other Orange County natives. They come to California because people make such large amounts of money here. The woman requested her last name not be used because she feared public recognition as a former prostitute.
She now works in telemarketing and wants to leave prostitution in the past. Several Santa Ana residents said fewer people appear to be engaging in prostitution along Harbor Boulevard in recent years. While Santa Ana police have dramatically increased arrests, they have no reliable method to track whether their initiative is working. Police have historically gauged prostitution by counting arrests, but the metric can be misleading because s shift depending on police practices. It ebbs and flows. Aside from crime statistics, police often rely on community feedback to measure prostitution.
Gominsky said the initiative is vital to maintaining a partnership with residents. He suggested that reducing the of arrests could damage the relationship and make it harder for police to investigate other crimes. If residents perceive police as unresponsive, they might stop calling police altogether about prostitution and other crimes.
A common police theory suggests that addressing issues like prostitution can help prevent more serious crimes like robbery and murder. The dip primarily reflects fewer assaults, but murder has dropped ificantly, too. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and other City Council members did not respond to requests for comment on the prostitution crackdown. Their experiences show that arrests seem to temporarily move prostitution to another stop in the regional circuit. And when the arrests subside, the behavior returns. During the December sweep of Harbor Boulevard, Santa Ana police arrested one woman for the fourth time.
The woman declined to be interviewed by a reporter, so she is not being identified. The industry tends to attract people with issues like drug addiction, family abuse or poor job qualifications. Many children become involved as runaways. In the case of Samantha, the Tustin woman who stopped engaging in prostitution, the path to Harbor Boulevard began with the disbanding of her family. She said she lost two children to social services, had to put a third child up for adoption and then became addicted to speed. Her life quickly spiraled, she said. She needed money to feed the drug addiction and began prostituting herself through craigslist.
Then as she became more desperate for cash, she moved to the boulevard. Advocates who try to rehabilitate women involved in prostitution argue the issue is far more complex than police and the courts can address with a few weeks in jail, geographic restrictions or brief counseling.
Until the underlying factors are addressed, the behavior will continue. In , Michael Scott studied law-enforcement strategies aimed at reducing prostitution through the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Department of Justice. In fact, Scott continued, arrests can actually nurture prostitution.
Fines can pressure people to commit more crimes to pay off their debts. Anaheim once approached prostitution like Santa Ana does today. In the mids, its Police Department arrested hundreds more people on suspicion of prostitution than any other law-enforcement agency in the county.
But in the last decade, the department has turned away from that strategy and now argues it was the wrong method. Anaheim police now target pimping and spend more effort trying to connect women with social services.
In , Anaheim reported 76 prostitution-related arrests, the fewest of any year in the three decades. The vice unit tore down mug shots of people suspected of being prostitutes from its office walls and replaced them with pictures of people suspected of being pimps. Through federal funding, Anaheim police funded an advocate who talks with women about exiting prostitution and tries to connect them with resources dealing with drug addiction, housing or employment.
Friesen said at least some have moved on to full-time jobs and received high school diplomas. They depend on the same unreliable methods for tracking prostitution. Nonprofit advocates say that Santa Ana and Anaheim are focusing their enforcement strategies on the wrong people. Police rarely arrest men attempting to buy sex, known as johns. Santa Ana and Anaheim arrested nearly the same of men and women on suspicion of prostitution in the s, but the balance has since tipped dramatically toward women.
In , more than 80 percent of arrests at both police departments were women. Advocates say the focus on women is flawed because the prostitution circuit follows cash-carrying male customers. The market adapts to police pressure as well as the amount of demand for paid sex. Both Santa Ana and Anaheim police say they organize stings targeting male customers, but these operations are much harder to organize.
Police departments have many male officers to impersonate buyers and few women to pose as sellers. Police said another obstacle is using the same female officers repeatedly, because customers will learn their faces and avoid them. Along with stings, some law-enforcement agencies have tried to reduce demand for prostitution by sentencing men to counseling or through public shaming.
A study examining these strategies funded by the U. Department of Justice earlier this year showed some promising . One program targeting demand in San Francisco has been adopted by Los Angeles, San Diego and dozens of other metropolises across the nation. Charges against men arrested for soliciting sex are dismissed if they complete an eight-hour diversion class.
Fees for the class pay for operational costs, police stings and social services aimed at helping women involved in prostitution. A study found no ificant difference from a similar program in Portland, Ore. If they provide a DNA sample and complete a one- or two-day diversion class, prosecutors dismiss the charges against them.Where to find prostitutes in orange county
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Harbor Blvd. Now Part of Prostitutes’ National Map