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OPD goes undercover to get young prostitutes off the street

on April 8, 2010

“There’s another one there,” the undercover cop says to me from the driver’s seat. He gestures up the street with a nod. Half a block ahead, I can see who he is talking about: a young woman crosses the street wearing tight jeans tucked into black leather knee-high boots with tall, spiky heels. Her black hair hangs in a braid pulled through the white sequined baseball cap covering her head.  She wears a black tank top with thin straps, and she adjusts the small black purse on her shoulder while talking on her cell phone.  If I saw her at the mall or the grocery store, I wouldn’t think twice. But this isn’t the mall. This is Oakland’s International Boulevard, otherwise known as “the track,” where young women, some of them minors, come to work as prostitutes.

We drive past the girl, and several voices crackle over the handheld radio in the cop’s lap.  The girl is heading towards the corner of 17th Avenue and International Boulevard, towards the National Lodge, a somewhat rundown motel. The officer radios in her location and we drive up another block before turning around.

I’ve been allowed to tag along this afternoon with Officer Jim Saleda and the Oakland Police Department’s Child Exploitation Unit as it conducts an undercover operation. This particular operation is geared towards arresting the girls involved in prostitution, but the unit will sometimes hold operations using their own female officers to arrest “johns,” or men who pay for sex.

Wearing plain clothes, Officer Jim Saleda watches the streets of International Boulevard, looking for young women engaged in prostitution. Oakland North agreed to blur the faces of undercover officers to protect their identity.

 

It’s the middle of the afternoon in the middle of an ordinary week, not a time when I expect there to be much demand for prostitutes. Yet the girl is the third Saleda has pointed out to me in the six minutes we’ve been on International. We had seen a blonde girl in a brown top three blocks earlier, and another girl in a white tank top and shorts just headed off of International. “The later it gets, closer to rush hour traffic, you wouldn’t believe the number of girls out here,” Saleda says.

Saleda has been a cop since 1993 and a member of the unit since 2002, with an 18-month break for what he wryly calls his “vacation”—as an Army reservist, Saleda served in Iraq as a cavalry scout from 2003-2005. As part of the undercover team, he is dressed in plain clothes: jeans and a black graphic t-shirt that doesn’t quite cover the tattoos etched into his forearms. His gray, spiky hair sticks out from beneath a black embroidered hat. The bill of the hat curves slightly, despite, he tells me, the fact that prostitutes and pimps he’s previously arrested say that the curved bill is an indicator that he’s a cop. Other indicators of cop status: being a white male, and wearing black boots or high-end tennis shoes. I glance down at Saleda’s feet on the pedals and recognize his tan combat boots, the kind worn by soldiers.

Oakland Police trail a car that has just picked up a suspected prostitute (the car's license plate has been blurred).

 

As we drive in our unmarked sedan, somewhere close by four other plainclothes officers are also circling in undercover vehicles. Like Saleda, they’re keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior: Girls dressed in a somewhat provocative manner, or who do not fit the local demographic—say, a white female with a confident stride walking through a mostly black or Latino neighborhood.  “It’s a lot of body language and mannerism,” Saleda says; the way a girl moves says a lot about what she’s up to. There are other clues: “The shoes are a dead giveaway,” he says, referring to the uncomfortably high heels we’ve seen thus far. So are smiling, waving or nodding at cars, or simply wandering in an area known for prostitution. These signs are subtle, but Saleda says that after a while officers just sort of develop an eye for them, and that his unit never accidentally arrested someone who wasn’t involved in prostitution.

If an officer sees enough suspicious behavior, he will “set up” on the girl, Saleda says, and park the car to watch her for telltale actions, like if she’s staring into passing vehicles, trying to get the attention of passersby.  An undercover cop might approach the young woman to see if she’ll solicit him for sex. If she does, or if the officer feels he’s collected enough other evidence, he’ll call in one of the several arrest teams—or uniformed officers in marked cars— that are also roving the area.

Saleda and his colleagues keep in continual radio contact, reporting their locations and observations. Now the voices on the radio report that other officers are trailing the girl in the white tank top, who has made her way to the National Lodge.

We park across the street from the motel where we have a view of the row of room doors.  The girl in the white hat reappears briefly, walks to room 104, pulls out a key and goes inside. Within minutes a young man appears, knocks on the door, and goes inside.

Saleda puts down the radio, and I follow him to the small booth that serves as the motel’s front desk. With one eye on room 104, he rings the bell and a young woman appears. Saleda pulls his badge, which is hanging from a chain around his neck, from his shirt and shows it to the woman, asking to see the reservation info for the room. She glances at the badge before printing the page, and slides it underneath the glass window.

Studying the printout, Saleda moves to the other side of the office, out of view of 104, and uses his radio to call in the name on the receipt. As we stand there, a shiny black Pontiac pulls into the parking lot. The driver is a white man in his early thirties wearing a pressed button-down shirt; he looks polished and out of place. He sees the two of us standing alongside the office—Saleda still talking on the handheld radio—and almost immediately drives away. “That was probably a john,” Saleda says, watching him go.

Saleda gets the word on the background check on the name used to rent room 104: it’s clean, no record. We go back to the car and start to drive again.

***

Oakland is notorious for prostitution. In 2009, the Child Exploitation Unit made a total of 640 arrests—mostly for solicitation, or offering sex for money—and 71 of the people arrested were minors. Many of those arrests occurred through operations such as this one. According to the unit’s commander, Lieutenant Kevin Wiley, the number of arrests is directly tied to the number of officers assigned to the unit: the more manpower, the more arrests. However, arresting girls on the street is considered merely the tip of the iceberg. Police know many more people are involved with prostitution.

Police arrest a young girl suspected of engaging in prostitution on 20th Avenue and International Boulevard. The girl's face has been blurred to protect her identity.

 

According to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, the average age of entry into prostitution and pornography in the United States is 12 to 14 years old. Although there are exceptions, the majority of girls who get involved with prostitution are runaways, or have been in foster care or group homes, and very often are past victims of chronic physical or sexual abuse. Many girls initially become involved because they believe that their pimp is their boyfriend; pimps may prey on their need for affection, trapping the girls in a cycle of intimacy and violence that becomes difficult to escape.

As Saleda and I leave the hotel, the chatter on the radio continues, with voices calling in locations, movements. One team announces, “We’ve got it.” Up ahead I can see a marked police car. “There’s the arrest,” Saleda says. Sure enough, one police officer is handcuffing a girl who looks to be about seventeen, while the other cop is speaking to her and taking notes.

I guess I had expected to see more girls in neon pink spandex mini skirts, wearing knee-high boots and displaying too much cleavage. But this girl looks normal to me. If there wasn’t a slight chill in the air, her miniscule jean shorts, white tank top and flat pair of silver-strapped sandals wouldn’t seem terribly out of place. I mention this to Saleda in the driver’s seat.

“Look at her face,” Saleda says, nodding towards the girl. Beneath her heavily-lined eyes, a huge red welt covers her pale cheek.

“The pimp beat her ass,” Saleda says, his tone angry.  He steps on the gas, and we circle back to International. “But she loves him,” he says, “That’s why it’s so hard to get to these girls—they’re so abused by everybody in their life, any attention they get from the pimp they think is good attention.”

***

A few minutes later, one of the other officers on the radio reports the girl in the white hat is on the move again. It’s been less than fifteen minutes since we saw her enter room 104.  Now she’s back on the street, and a cop has set up on her.

The arrest teams head in the direction of the National Lodge, and so do we. We arrive moments later as the girl is arrested, and five or six police cars, mostly unmarked, crowd the parking lot. She stands with her back to me, talking to a female police officer in plainclothes. A uniformed officer has a laptop out and is searching for the girl’s history in the OPD’s records.  When she turns to sit inside the car, her expression seems stoic, perhaps annoyed. I wonder if this is part of the routine for her, the irritating occupational hazard of occasionally getting arrested.

 

Marked and unmarked police vehicles crowd the parking lot of the National Lodge, where police arrested a young girl believed to be engaged with prostitution. Oakland North agreed to blur the faces of undercover officers to protect their identity.

 

The police officers ask permission to search the room, hoping to glean some information about her pimp, and the girl gives them her key. I follow Saleda and several uniformed officers into the room, which looks and smells like any cheap hotel: dingy, dimly lit, stagnant. Perched on the bedside table is a laptop; its wallpaper image is of a provocatively-posed young woman wearing nothing but a thong. Beside the laptop, there’s a condom.

A uniformed officer searches through the duffel bags of a suspected prostitute and her pimp, who were believed to be living at the hotel. A laptop (presumably used to solicit clientele over the internet) and a condom sat on the nightstand.

 

Wearing blue latex gloves, the police officers dig through several duffel bags which mostly contain clothing, both men and women’s—they tell me this indicates that the girl has been living with her pimp here in the hotel room. The room is stocked as if they’d intended to stay for a while: cookware, an Xbox, and the laptop, presumably used to solicit clients over the Internet.  “She’s got a decent setup,” says Sergeant Robert Chan, who is supervising the undercover operation. “She’s pretty self-contained.”

Saleda and Chan are grudgingly impressed with the girl’s ingenuity: Her cell phone contacts— that is, her clientele—are labeled with names like “blue car” and “black car.” Because she’s recorded these obscure details, rather than clients’ names, the cops learn very little that is useful. And when they ask her questions about her pimp, she denies that she has one.

“That’s what they all say,” Saleda later tells me—many of the girls will lie, saying they work independently. Whether out of love or fear or both, “Don’t give up your pimp” is the number one rule, he said.

He reminds me of the welt on the cheek of the girl we’d seen arrested earlier: “If they give up their pimp, the minimum of what’s going to happen to them… well, you saw it on that girl’s face back there.”

***

The operation continues along International, and the police arrest girl after girl.  Although the offenses for which they are being picked up—solicitation or loitering with the intent of prostitution—are misdemeanors, and the girls could potentially be let off with a simple citation, the officers prefer to make arrests, and gather up as many girls as they have room for in the squad cars.

By arresting the girls, Saleda says, the police can remove them from their environment, give them time away from the influence of their pimps, and attempt to offer them access to support services such as counseling. Police also use the opportunity to question the girls for useful information. “Otherwise, they’d just go right back to work,” Saleda says; when they’re under arrest, he says, “They’re going to get a time out.”

Saleda says officers also hope that the younger girls are still new enough to the game that they can be convinced that their pimps are not actually their boyfriends, but someone who is exploiting them, and be willing to help police build a case against him. “If we can put her pimp away, that’s ten more girls somewhere down the line that don’t have to be victimized,” Saleda says. He admits some of the pimps are really smart, to the point of creating business plans—he’s seen the notes. “These guys are true parasites,” he says.

Only two hours after the operation began, the arrest teams are “down”—that means the squad cars are full of arrestees—and they take the group they’ve arrested to a “staging area,” a secluded outdoor space in a commercial area that acts as a sort of waiting room for the girls. They’ll wait here until the operation is over and they are brought to police headquarters downtown.  The girls are loaded into a passenger van to wait while the police screen out the juveniles from the older women, which is required by law.

During the operation, police separate the arrested juveniles from the adult women by placing them in a squad car for questioning at the "staging area." The arrested adults wait in a passenger van until the operation is over and they are sent to jail.

 

Also waiting at the staging area are several advocates from Bay Area Women Against Rape, or BAWAR, a rape crisis center that provides counseling to sexual assault victims. They offer the young women snack food and bottled water, and some of them accept it.  “We are primarily here for the juveniles,” says Pat Mims, the Sexually Exploited Minor Coordinator for BAWAR. Mims is a tall, thin soft-spoken man.  He leans against one of the sedans he and his team arrived in; the trunk is popped open, revealing a partially-depleted case of bottled water and small bags of chips. “We offer services to the adults as well, and let them know they can get free counseling and referral to other services,” he says.

Mims says that BAWAR is Oakland’s first responder for sexually exploited minors, and that the group later refers them on to other counseling and advocacy organizations like the Oakland-based nonprofit MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth). Mims said in the past, the number of adults taking the offered counseling has been low, but it had been increasing in recent months. He believes the increase in counseling requests is due to more information about sexual victimization becoming available and more sex workers beginning to identify themselves as victims of exploitation.

 

Of the eight girls arrested so far, two are under 18.  Each sits with a police officer in a separate squad car with a BAWAR advocate while an officer interviews them and begins filling out a report. But Saleda says it’s hard to tell how many of them are actually under 18—many young sex workers lie about their ages in order to get an earlier release from custody.

Adults are arrested, but because loitering and soliciting are misdemeanors, the punishment is minimal. They’re usually only held for up to 18 hours—longer if they are violating probation or if it’s not their first arrest on this charge—or they may not be taken into custody at all.

Saleda says that while minors are sometimes sent home, if the girl has no home to go to, she will be kept in custody. “We don’t like putting them in [Juvenile] Hall, but sometimes it’s the only place we have,” he said. He said pimps will pressure their girls to lie about their ages so they can be released sooner. “As a pimp, you’ll get an adult back in 12 to 18 hours, but as a juvenile, they might be there for two weeks,” Saleda said.

When the officers have completed their reports, the two minors are loaded into a squad car and sent downtown to the police station for processing: photographs, booking, and fingerprinting.  The rest of the girls remain in the large passenger van at the staging area. As I head back to the car, I can see the girls sitting in the seats in the van, talking to each other.

The "Wall of Shame," pictures of convicted traffickers and rapists, adorns the wall at police headquarters.

 

The police officers and I return to the track.

***

It isn’t long before Saleda and I spot another girl: she’s getting into a dark green sedan. The car begins to drive down International, and we fight the traffic to keep it in sight while the arrest team catches up. Soon a squad car pulls up behind the sedan with its lights flashing. The driver pulls over off of International and we follow.

As an officer talks to the man behind the wheel, I ask Saleda if he’ll be arrested if he turns out to be a john. Saleda says it depends on what the man is saying to the cop right now. He explains that the police can’t cite him for loitering—the car hadn’t been driving in circles or lingering, but had simply stopped to pick up the girl. However, he says, they can probably cite him for solicitation, because an undercover officer overheard their exchange.  “A lot of times we’ll find a reason to take them, but it would be on solicitation, not the loitering,” Saleda says. Both crimes are misdemeanors, he says, and the penalty would most likely be a citation.

Saleda puts the car in gear and heads back to the track. I can easily pick out the next two girls, although I’m pretty sure anyone could: young women wearing skin-tight dresses, one in a flashy yellow top and the other in svelte black, with barely-there hemlines.  The girl in the black dress stands on the curb watching the traffic and smiling. Yellow Top is much chubbier, and she’s shaking her booty to an inaudible tune. There is cleavage. And high heels.

“There’s two on 45th, looking the part,” Saleda calls over the radio. The thinner girl on the curb spots Saleda watching them, and she smiles. Her face is beautiful and her smile appears genuine, confident. She waves at him and mouths “Hi.”

“They’re not from around here,” Saleda says to me.  Another girl in skinny jeans, this one more subtly dressed in a yellow tank top and spike heels, appears on the far end of the block, near the corner of 46th. Saleda picks up the radio to call her in as well.

As we circle back toward the duo on 45th, waiting for the arrest team, I ask Saleda how he knows they’re not from Oakland. “They’re dressed like hookers,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Our girls don’t dress like hookers.” The chubby girl in the yellow top is still dancing; the back of her tight outfit reveals that a large portion of the top is cut out. The rolls of her dark flesh stack unabashedly on top of each other.

“And she’s too brazen,” Saleda says referring to the thin girl in black, who turns her head our direction, and waves again at him. “That’s two waves and a smile for me,” he says into the handheld. To me, he scoffs, “C’mon, a white guy riding with a female in the car, and she’s waving and smiling at me?”

“Our girls know our tactics,” he continues, and again begins to circle the block. “I just hope the arrest team gets here before she gets picked up.” One arrest team is still tied up with the john in the green sedan, and another has headed to the police station with the juveniles.

This is a reoccurring problem for these operations: Too many girls on the streets and not enough arresting officers. Over the radio, we learn the third girl we spotted at 46th has taken off running, having spotted the arrest team’s approaching squad car.  Agitated voices sound over the radio, announcing their locations, but it’s soon clear that the officers have caught up with the fleeing girl.  

Saleda pulls his unmarked car up to the squad car, now two blocks off of International on a quiet residential road.  The girl is about 19 years old.  Her hoop earrings sparkle in the afternoon sun along with the tears streaming down her cheeks.  Now in handcuffs, she pleads with the arresting officers to give her a break.  She complains they shouldn’t be messing with her but the other two girls who aren’t from around here, saying she’d hardly been out there, and that she could prove it — she’d just picked up her son at a local school. Saleda approaches the girl and like a frustrated parent silencing a tantrum, he tells her to help herself by giving him some information he can use.  He coaxes her into sitting in the back seat of the squad car while he crouches alongside the car to talk to her.

Saleda later explains that he talks with the girls to first try to get them out of the business, and get them to give up their pimp—often this is a futile attempt, but he says he has to try anyway. Beyond that, he says, prostitutes can often provide information on murders, robberies, or other crimes committed in the area. “They mess around with dope dealers, they mess around with people on the streets. They know everything,” as Chan puts it. If a girl ends up providing truthful information to the police, Saleda says they may ask the district attorney to drop the charges against  her “in the interest of justice.”

It turns out, though, that the girl in the yellow does not have anything helpful to say.

***

Later: same street, different girl. I’m getting better at picking them out. This one has the tight jeans, tank top, and high heels. She is also young, early twenties at most, and attractive.  She walks along carrying a small water bottle. (Saleda on the water bottle: “I won’t tell you what that’s for.”) She stops at a convenience store to use the bathroom. Over the radio, the other officers say they have spotted a light blue sedan that’s pulled around the corner to wait for her. There’s a man behind the wheel and two other women in the car. Saleda and I pull over and watch.

The girl emerges from the bathroom and starts walking along the street in the same direction as the car. She gets closer to the car but doesn’t get in. She keeps her eyes on the ground as she walks past it. The car pulls along slowly beside her, as though the driver is trying to get her attention, but she doesn’t look up. She spins around suddenly and heads back the way she came. The car rolls backwards, the driver still trying to get her attention. The girl does not look up.

Saleda watches this action unfold and speaks into the radio, “He’s trying to sweat that girl. … He’s trying to make her get out of pocket so he can take her,” he says—in other words, one pimp is trying to coax another pimp’s girl into his car so that she will work for him instead. The girl, Saleda explains, is supposed to try to avoid him. “If she looked at him, he has the right to take her. That’s the game,” Saleda says.

By now the girl is calling someone on her cell phone, still ignoring the trailing blue car. Saleda on the radio: “Yeah he’s trying to sweat her. She’s on the phone to her own pimp now, trying to get out of here.”

Still watching the girl, he says to me, “As long as she doesn’t look at him, he can’t take her. But she’s a pretty girl, so she’s a money maker.”

Finally, the man appears to have given up and the blue car drives away. “That guy really wanted her,” Saleda says.

Soon, a silver sedan pulls up and the girl gets in.  The police officers ask over the radio if anyone has enough evidence to arrest her.  Saleda tells them he thinks they have enough: When the man tried to sweat her she behaved like a prostitute, she’s been loitering in the area for over 15 minutes, and she got in the car with what the police consider “an unknown man.”

Saleda later explains that cops who’d been doing this for a while would assume that in this situation, the man driving the car is unknown to her, not a friend or a relative who’d simply shown up to offer a ride. To confirm this, they will typically conduct what’s called a “pre-check stop,” where they pull the person over for a traffic violation and use investigative questioning—like asking the driver for the girl’s name—to assess whether the driver and the passenger know each other.

In this case, the team decides to pursue the girl. Over the radio, we hear that the silver sedan has dropped her off few blocks over, and she has gotten out of the car.  Two of the police officers take down the car’s plates before it drives off.  Saleda drives his vehicle to the next block, and we wait a few minutes while one of the other undercover cops attempts to make a deal with the girl. If she responds to his solicitation for sex, the officers will have enough evidence to arrest her.

While we wait, Saleda says that he’s sure the girl has a pimp. “She’s too pretty to be out here alone,” he says.  “They wouldn’t allow that. She acts like she’s pimp-trained.”

Saleda says that girls who try to work independently don’t do so for long: They can be quickly snatched up by pimps and coerced into working for them through a variety of violent tactics including beatings, gang rapes, or “trunking”—trapping the girl in the trunk of a car until she agrees.

Over the radio, we get word that the cop has made the deal, and the arrest team is on the scene. Saleda heads to their location, but stays behind the wheel observing as the uniformed officer puts the girl in the back of the squad car and shuts the door. As the squad car drives away, I notice two middle-aged women standing on a nearby lawn watching the scene. They turn to head back inside their house, and call out “Thank you” to the police officers.

Earlier, Saleda had told me that prostitution brings down the quality of life in a neighborhood and brings in more crime, violence and drug use. He gestures towards the women who thanked them. “They have to look at it every day and their kids do, too,” he says.

Police arrest a young woman suspected of prostitution.

 

***

The passenger van back at the staging area is getting full, and the arresting teams are tied up, so Sergeant Chan has the team make one more arrest before calling it a night. Over the radio, one of the undercover officers reports he’s spotted another prostitute, and we drive in his direction.

The officer is busy making the deal when we pass, and I can see this woman is different. She’s older than the others, in her mid-40’s and frail-looking. Her clothing is rumpled and her hair is unkempt.  Saleda gathers by her appearance that she’s a junkie, which he says creates a different set of issues for the neighborhood. “She’s one of the bigger problems out here, because she’s the one that will bring narcotics to the area, dump the needles on the ground and stuff like that,” he says.

The team makes the arrest, and Chan instructs everyone to head back to the police station downtown. Now that the operation is over, the undercover officers begin writing their reports, laying out the evidence for each girl’s arrest: what the officers observed, conversations they overheard, or anything else that justifies it.

The police arrested 16 girls today. Saleda says they usually bring in anywhere from 15-20 girls in similar operations, but that the unit is considering switching to smaller “surgical operations” using only a handful of officers to save money. He says it’s costly to do these operations because they involve so many personnel, and with budget cuts within the OPD, different departments are trying to make do with less.

I ask Saleda if arresting girls is an effective way of stopping prostitution, but he says that ending prostitution altogether, using just these methods, isn’t realistic.  “We’ll never stop it,” he says, but adds that what the police can do is build cases against pimps and others who exploit young women, putting them behind bars and preventing them from going after other girls in the future. Most days, he says, it’s just a lot of gathering of information and it takes a long time.

“But if you save one girl, is it worth it?” he asks, “Pretty much, it is.”

27 Comments

  1. tasneem on April 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Amazing reporting. I hope we can get this story in front of as many people as possible.



  2. sierra on April 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    this is great work. nice details — a great sketch of what’s happening out there, and some of the many challenges that face Oakland, the OPD, and people fighting exploitation.



  3. maxine doogan on April 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Well, was one girl saved?

    Arresting victims and holding them in jail for two week, why? And arresting victims to in order to arrest who? How many arrests or convictions resulted from this years or last years sting operation? How much money did the city of Oakland collect in fines and fees?

    How much money does this operation cost in terms of paid wages to law enforcement officers and jailers and court staff?

    Additionally, this kind of arrest on one’s record sets folks up to be discriminated against in future employment, housing can be denied, custody of children can be challenged. Sexual harassment. Thanks OPD

    And article was writing last year, and the year before and the year before that.

    I guess we can look forward to next year too.



  4. 2wheelsrbetter on April 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Don’t the cops have anything better to do? You know, like arrest some REAL criminals?

    Sheesh!

    What a waste of resources, especially with so many VIOLENT criminals on the loose!



  5. mary on April 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Keep reporting on this. These girls need to be protected, and kept out of harms way. They are being beaten and raped on a daily basis. They are children and the pimps and the johns are sexual predators and should be held accountable. The people of this city need to know what’s going on in the underbelly of Oakland. Maybe there would be an outcry, maybe the public, if they knew more would do more.



  6. Graham Freeman on April 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Thanks for the excellent reporting, and thanks also to the LEOs involved in the operation.

    How about a follow-up story on the prostitutes and what drives them to do what they do? It’s clear in the abstract that it’s the result of desperation and patterns of abuse, but telling more of the human side of that story might both show to the public that these are people who need help, and perhaps convince a prostitute or two that there’s a better way to live.

    Our society treats sex as a commercial good in many ways, which makes it easier for women to be exploited in the ways described in the article. If we start viewing prostitution as human exploitation rather than sex-for-money, we might be more willing to devote resources to fighting it.



  7. Lydia on April 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Wonderful piece and photos. Congrats! lc



  8. Nathan on April 9, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I don’t know how this story doesn’t make it obvious to anyone reading it that sex work should be legalized. These guys clearly identified the fact that drug addiction, trafficking, and exploitation by pimps are the most serious issues, and yet they arrested zero drug dealers and zero pimps. What?!



  9. fred Smith on April 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    During the time wasted with the perverted cop’s following working girl’s around there were 9 robberies,3 shootings and 4 assualts,good job officer,Mr.Army man cop should go play hero in Afganhastan,and they wonder why so many people dislike them



  10. […] case you missed it, ON staff writer Mary Flynn went undercover with OPD’s Child Exploitation Unit as they worked to get young prostitutes off the […]



  11. dmbc on April 9, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    video would have been cool
    im a visual learner



  12. Eduardo on April 9, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Their bodies, their choice (if they are adults).

    They should concentrate on arresting pimps. Not ONE pimp arrested in the history.

    This is an underage unit! how about they ask for id and let the adults go???

    Bottom line: prostitution is legal in America (Nevada). So this is just ‘police state’ BS.



  13. amala on April 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    cops are hardly social workers, and do they really think by arresting these women and ‘coercing’ them into getting social services is a good strategy is ridiculous. all they do is give these women a criminal record so they can deal with courts and fees, what a waste. how hard is it to drive around, eat donuts, get paid and spot sex workers. real police work(sarcasm).



  14. Kelcifer on April 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Great reporting!! Very good story!



  15. Jonnie on April 19, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Nice…Oakland is in the mists of an epic real crime wave (like murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults) and the OPD is wasting time and taxpayer money out chasing down and arresting people for having consensual sex!!!



  16. Leslie on April 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    i dont have the time to really read all of the article (i want to thank you for the detailed article still!) i just wonder… are the cops perspectives that these women,…”prostitutes” are doing this for the money? that they are trying to hide their pimps b/c they love them? or is it that they are truly sexually exploited and they need help to get out of their situation?



  17. david on April 23, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Very pro-police piece, which I guess one would expect with such an arrangement. Not enough police, huh? What a crock. If they have time to round up all the women (or johns) for victim-less crimes, I’ll assume they are over-staffed. Things much be peachy in Oakland these days, no murders, no violent crimes; police getting paid to write tickets and make money as revenue agents. Good times.



  18. […] a fraction of that price.  And no I’m not a freak, that ish is known common knowledge (see prostitution in Oakland on the news).  But more so then the economics of it all, the social & gender issues sure to arise from […]



  19. nathan on June 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Great work. Thanks again for the local reporting.

    For those of you concerned about the police addressing this issue:
    a. Oakland has a huge youth prostitution problem
    b. if it was your street corner and the police just let the adults go you would feel different.

    In North Oakland Sunday there was a real young girl SCREAMING, standing stark naked on my local hotel balcony yelling at a pimp about steeling her money. He was nonchalantly walking away with another really young girl. Go OPD, if these young girls are in jail they are away from those pimps and the obvious abuse.



  20. Cbelow on June 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    While many comments side with what a waste of time this is, how many of these posters have to live with prostitution in their neighborhoods?

    We tolerated it for a while in my East Oakland neighborhood. We had a “it’s their business, I don’t want to get involved” type of attitude. Then we noticed other types of criminal activity happening: drug deals, car thefts, burglary. When my car was stolen from in front of my house, I was p$ssed! That’s it, I’ve had enough! No more laissez faire attitude and the ‘hos have got to go. I talked to the neighbors, we set up a neighborhood watch and got OPD involved. We managed to kick the all prostitutes out of our neighborhood. OPD took care of the rest. Now we live relatively crime free except for the break in every few years which in Oakland is pretty good. If you give an inch, the criminals take a mile. It’s your inch and your mile – so fight for it.



  21. NOJOHN on August 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    LMAO, DONT WE ALL ENJOY A NUT EVERY NOW AND THEN. YOUR BODY YOUR TEMPLE. I JUDGE NO ONE. I KNOW SO MANY CHICKS WHO NOT HOOKERS YET HAVE SEX MORE AND NOT CHARGING FOR IT. IMA MAN AND I WISH I COULD GO OUTSIDE WALK AROUND AND CHICKS DRIVE UP LIKE WASSUP, I GOT CASH LMAO. ID BE SMASHING SOME ONE GRANNY FOR THAT 300 HUNDRED ALL DAY EVERYDAY. ALOT OF TIMES THESE GIRLS SCREWED UP LONG BEFORE PIMPS COME INTO PLAY. SOME GIRLS ARE RAPED BY THEIR OWN FAMILY MEMBERS AND NOW SEE SEX AS A WEAPON FOR MONEY THAT CAN BE MADE. NO HEART BREAK NO TIES, TO SOME ITS EASIER THAT WAY. WE ALL HAVE SEX, ITS HOW WE ALL GOT HERE. SO WHOS TO SAY WHETHER OR NOT THAT SHOULD COME WITH A PRICE. AS THE SAYING GOES NOTHING IS FOR FREE. TRIPPING ON A FEW HOOKERS GETTING MONEY AND MOST WOMAN HAVE SEX FOR NOUNS AND VERBS WHICH CAN TURN OUT TO BE A LIE ANYWAYS. LAST TIME I CHECKED PROSTITUTION IS NOT VIOLENCE, ITS SEX AND FANTACIES PERIOD. THIS SAME OFFICER BUSTING THESE CHICKS KNOW DAM WELL AT THE END OF THE DAY HE WANT SOME ASS TOO, PLEASE. OFFICERS GET AT THESE GIRLS TOO ON THE UNDER. ILL TAKE YOU TO JAIL UNLESS YOU DO A FAVOR FOR ME TYPES. THIS IS EVERY WHERE. IM FROM OAKLAND AND BEEN ALL OVER COUNTRY. IVE SEEN CHICKS DOWN THE STREET FROM WHITE HOUSE STROLLING WITH COPS TELLING THEM TAKE IT IN BY 6AM. WFT IS THAT. IF YOU 18 AND OLDER DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU SIMPLE MATH.



  22. Mier"s Mom on August 23, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I am a teenage single mother from a not so good area and I had it hard growing up trying to be independent by all means possible. I appreciate this report because it’s factual and it puts the harsh reality into view.



  23. sally on March 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    what a joke poor girls…so being raped makes it ok to be a ho ??? this shit makes me sick …. pimps are disgusting and only use these girls and manipulate them into thinking they arent shit and what else could they do in life … preying on damaged goods and talking a good game … it’s foul . I wish a loser ass piece of shit would ever try and come at my daughter like that …. you have to be honest with your girls about everything…. anyone who takes from another to come up is a joke go get your own money and get some fucking common sense . LOSERS …. And poor little girls all dressed up like porn stars thinkin its cute its so sad it really is ….



    • Rob on June 11, 2011 at 6:54 am

      I couldn’t agree with this person more…except the fact that girls/women have been taught since a very young age in most “traditional” homes that MEN should do this or do that or take care of you, or pay for your dinner, or pay for your date. So what happens if this has been happening all their life due to the dumb parents not teaching own self value and worth and independence, should it make their now adult lifestyle and choices any different? I think not. Food for thought, women and men are equal so we all want to believe, so women that USE a man for gifts or dates to only turn around and have sex with him based on the $ or value he has placed on her, are no different in my eyes…maybe they just aren’t walking the streets. Think about it!



  24. […] previous Oakland North stories about efforts to reduce underage prostitution using undercover police stings or through the HEAT […]



  25. Nina Brow on June 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I think OPD is doing what they can at this point, if the girls are off the streets for 1hr or 24 is a plus just think if it was your own child,how dare you try to have a problem with somebody standing up for change,the next killings will be focus on the pimps getting their girls took by other pimps,and what drugs these youngster are not selling drugs there using them, their useless and untrained(( ignorant) So if we can get them off the streets now it will eleminate the war later.



  26. […] Originally published on OaklandNorth.net. […]



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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: oaklandnorthstaff@gmail.com.

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