To crack down on prostitution, Tempe police recently made a bust, arresting five alleged prostitutes and three suspected pimps. But advocates say addressing the crime is only part of the solution.
Although it goes on behind closed doors, prostitution is rampant in the Phoenix metro area, and a survivor who left the business 10 years ago said the women caught up in that lifestyle are victims, not criminals.
The Tempe Police Department said they went undercover on Backpage.com, a common way pimps and prostitutes find Johns using code language, to set up their meetings. And while they arrested five prostitutes, they say their main focus was the pimps.
"They're the ones that house these prostitutes. They're the ones that get the money," said Commander Noah Johnson. He said undercover officers had the pimps and prostitutes meet them at an apartment complex. And while they will prosecute the prostitutes, Johnson said the goal is to get them out of this lifestyle.
"They don't have any resources. They have no family, and they get to the point where this is the only way they feel they can make money," Johnson said. Tempe police said one disturbing trend they're seeing is more and more gang members getting involved in this kind of activity.
"It's that girl that lives next door, and it's that little girl that's struggling in school," said Carolyn Jean Jones, who was a prostitute for more than 30 years. She is now an advocate at Streetlight USA to save other women and girls.
"I didn't want to be a prostitute and a drug addict when I grew up. I wanted to be a nurse," Jones said. She said a way to get these women off the streets is to try to understand them.
"I only look back to grab somebody else to say, 'Come on. Let's do thing. You don't have to do it by yourself. I got you,'" Jones said.
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