by: Mark Becker Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
It’s a side of Charlotte that surfaces after dark along a strip of motels and convenience stores off Interstate 85 and Sugar Creek Road and on a Saturday night police are gearing up to clean it up.
Sgt. Gil Narvaez briefed a team of vice and patrol officers gathered at the police division headquarters on North Tryon Street just after 10 p.m.
“You've noticed a tremendous amount of vehicles and foot traffic related to prostitution in that area,” said Narvaez as officers learned the plan for the night.
The bigger problem, police say, is that prostitution attracts a lot of other, more serious, crimes like robbery and assault to the area that’s already on the edge.
“We had a situation last night where that occurred. Where an individual was robbed at gunpoint by three females,” said Capt. Rob Dance as he hit the street with the team.
Within 20 minutes, police had their first arrest.
“The female actually flagged the undercover down and a case was made,” Dance said. “She offered him sex for $20.”
Fifteen minutes later, police had another arrest, and that time they found evidence of another problem that often goes hand in hand with prostitution.
“A lot of times people don't come up here just to find prostitutes, but drugs as well and again that's when we start to see robberies and some of the other violent crimes we have out here,” Dance said.
They are the kind of crimes that have spilled over into the fragile neighborhoods nearby.
“I've been getting complaints from constituents,” said City Councilman Greg Phipps, who had come along to see the problem for himself.
“They (neighbors) have been noticing that the traffic is migrating even farther there,” Phipps said.
Some of that traffic includes the customers who come looking for prostitutes.
After arresting half a dozen women, the undercover team put three female officers on the street posing as prostitutes and within an hour they had arrested three men who had offered to pay them for sex.
“One of the biggest problems I'm having in my division is that, a lot of the people coming up here and soliciting prostitutes are getting robbed and shot,” Dance said.
“If it wasn't for them the prostitutes wouldn't be out here on the streets to begin with, so they're certainly part of the problem, and yes, they're going to jail -- zero tolerance,” Dance said.
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