Prostitutes Often Return To Streets Days After Being Arrested

Published: Feb. 3, 2005 at 4:16 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2005 at 4:38 PM EST
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By James Zambroski

(LOUISVILLE, February 3rd, 2005) -- Prostitution: Louisville police say it is a crime that is nearly impossible to stop. WAVE 3 Investigator James Zambroski hit the streets for a firsthand look at the problem.

It often called the world's oldest profession and it might be the world's oldest crime. Police are constantly chasing hookers from one corner to the next, but because prostitution is just a misdemeanor, and with jails bulging at the seams, most of the time they are resigned to a revolving door that sends prostitutes back to work just days after their arrest.

((unless you catch the prostitute with crack or something else that's going to bump the charge up to where they get jail time, they're always going to be out there."

Prostitution is a crime police have been fighting almost since the invention of the gun and the badge, arrests even young officers believe they'll make their entire career.

"There's so many of them," says Louisville Metro Police Officer Omar Lee, who patrols the city's fourth district. "I mean, you put five of them in jail, there'll still be 10 out there doing the deeds."

Officer Lee's fourth district beat is in old Louisville, and prostitution busts are just part of his daily routine. "Yeah, it's frustrating to me to keep citing the same girls and locking up the same girls, and stuff like that, but who do you turn to?"

Lee says experience, both on patrol and with repeat offenders, makes hookers on the streets stand out. He says it's "not really the way that they dress, but the way that they look, the way that they present themselves, because most of them are run down -- dirty -- for lack of a better word."

Believe it or not, lunch time is prime time for prostitutes working the street. And despite the freezing temperatures Wednesday night, we found one lady strolling downtown. We'll call her Jane Doe. "I've been out here for four months," she told us.

Jane is 19 years old. She said she's an exotic dancer who doesn t like the word prostitute. "I don't call myself a prostitute."

But she's had some scary experiences with anonymous men. "He just said I had a pretty face, and it was cold outside and he offered to take me home. When I got in the car, he threw $15 at me. I told him I wasn't doing nothing; some things happened and I got hit with a gun in my face."

Jane says she can walk away any time she wants. "I'm not bad like the other people in the streets, speaking for myself. I'm not caught up."

Police say about 25 percent of the people they lock up for prostitution are men with male clientele. While prostitution is only a misdemeanor offense, there is one exception: anytime a person who knows they have HIV or AIDS continues to work as a prostitute, they can be charged with a felony, punishable by one to five years in the penitentiary.

Online Reporter: James Zambroski

Online Producer: Michael Dever