Crime

Published on March 29th, 2015 | by The Kitsap Scene

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Kitsap detectives pretend to be prostitutes to nab ‘johns’ in Port Orchard

Detectives from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office arrested seven people for soliciting prostitutes during an emphasis operation in Port Orchard on Wednesday.

But there were no actual prostitutes.

The arrests are part of the sheriff’s office’s “continuing effort to battle the ever present issue of Human Trafficking,” a press release from the sheriff’s office states.

While human trafficking is a horrific crime, law enforcement often falsely equate it to prostitution. If you convince enough people there’s a human trafficking “crisis,” then of course they’ll pass new laws and throw money at law enforcement agencies so they can fix the “problem.”

Prostitutes are not necessarily victims of human trafficking, but using the phrase “human trafficking” evokes a lot more outrage than “prostitution.” Human trafficking, which is essentially modern-day human slavery, is a travesty. Prostitution is usually (but not always) sad. But it’s often (though not always) a victimless crime.

But human trafficking? It’s the worst thing since slavery. By equating prostitution with human trafficking, it’s easy to dismiss your critics. “You’re in favor of legalizing prostitution? I had no idea you supported slavery!”

There’s almost no doubt the panic over human trafficking is largely unwarranted — the numbers often cited are exaggerated, as evidenced here, here, herehere and here.

According to the sheriff’s press release, past teams made up of multiple jurisdictions have conducted emphasis patrols targeting the “supply” of prostitution — i.e., prostitutes and their “pimps” or handlers.

Wednesday’s emphasis patrol targeted the “demand” — those who patronize prostitutes, commonly referred to as “johns.” These johns, according to the sheriff’s office, “are perpetuating the human trafficking by purchasing the services [of prostitutes].”

But there are plenty of prostitutes out there who willingly engage in prostitution for a variety of reasons, and aren’t forced at all. If a john patronizes a prostitute who chose the profession, how does that perpetuate human trafficking?

The sheriff’s office spent weeks preparing for the operation before it placed ads on the “escort services” section of Backpage.com, the release states.

Included in the ads were phone numbers monitored by undercover detectives who exchanged text messages with potential “johns” who then arranged “dates,” arranged at predetermined locations, involving sexual acts in exchange for money, according to the release.

When the johns arrived, “after having entered into an agreement on service and price with the undercover detective,” they were met by police officers instead of the sexy women they were expecting, and taken into custody for solicitation of prostitution.

Over the course of several hours, seven men, ranging in age from 18-63 years old, were arrested. One hailed from as far away as Port Ludlow, according to the release.

People can expect similar operations in the future, according to the release.

“We are going to continue targeting human trafficking in Kitsap County and will hold perpetrators accountable for their involvement,” Det. Lt. Earl Smith stated in the release. “If it wasn’t law enforcement there, who would it be? It could be a 15-year-old child and an adult. Because we are here, another person is not being victimized.”

All seven suspects were booked into Kitsap County Jail, and bail was set at $10,000.

Detectives and officers from multiple local law enforcement agencies — including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Bremerton Police Department, Poulsbo Police Department, Bainbridge Island Police Department, and the Kitsap County Prosecutors Office — “worked together to make this operation successful.”

The operation may have been successful, but if these law enforcement agencies really think the best way to stop human trafficking is by make-believing they’re prostitutes, they’re kidding themselves.

If, however, you know someone who actually is a victim of human trafficking, the sheriff’s office suggests visiting the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network website at www.warntrafficking.org for more information on how to help them.


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The Kitsap Scene is an online news magazine covering everything in Kitsap County.



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