IMPD Lieutenant Mike Elder has become very adept at spotting prostitutes as he cruises city streets.
“She’s working even though she’s on the phone,” Elder said, pointing out a brown-haired woman walking down Tibbs Avenue.
“There’s one of our working girls out here on 10th Street,” he said a half hour later on the east side. “I think we’ve locked her up before, one of us, when we’ve been out here. The sun’s starting to go down. They’re starting to come out now.”
Since April, covert metro police officers, utilizing policemen and women as decoys to arrest customers and plainclothes officers to arrest hookers, have fanned out across the city, arresting more than 120 people.
Thirty-six were arrested during a similar sweep and sting operation Thursday night.
“In some of the neighborhoods the prostitutes don’t care where they take them so they will take them in alleys, behind houses, and we have citizens who are complaining,” said Elder as he wheeled an unmarked vehicle along East Washington Street.
“Ninety percent of the prostitutes that are out here are doing it to get money to buy narcotics. Heroin is really big right now.
“The male prostitutes that are out here, we found a lot of them have robbery priors so they’re out here robbing people when they get picked up, so it’s feeding the narcotics, the narcotics feeds the shooting, it all kind of feeds off each other.”
During the sweep, one detective spotted and arrested a man walking his two dogs with his son while carrying a loaded pistol. He was identified as a serious violent felon.
Prostitutes and their customers were taken to IMPD east and southwest district headquarters, processed and offered the opportunity to cooperate with detectives to lessen their charges.
“These people know everybody, they know what’s going on,” said Elder. “We want to know if they have information about the homicides in the city. We want to know who’s selling guns. Who’s selling drugs. Who’s doing burglaries. We’re going to try to get as much information as we can out of them.”
Elder said 20-30 percent of those arrested agree to cooperate.
One undercover policewoman said she was stunned by the men who approached her and offered cash for sex.
“They’re people coming in from out of the county, coming from downtown, from work, heading home to wives and kids, people with good jobs and nice cars, people I just wouldn’t expect.”
On the west side, Elder pointed out a known prostitute in a red shirt who strolled the sidewalk and talked on a cell phone.
Minutes later, she was spotted in a small black car with an elderly man, driving aimlessly through the neighborhood, slowing to glance down alleys.
A license plate on the front of the car professed the man’s love of God.