Sarasota police give call girls a way out

Cops calling call girls

SARASOTA - Local police officers are going beyond simply enforcing the law to help some women turn their lives around.

They're reaching out to prostitutes by soliciting online; the days of hitting the streets to bust prostitutes are fading.

“We can’t arrest our way out of it,” says Sgt. Rob Armstrong with the Sarasota Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit.

Armstrong and the unit are googling prostitutes on popular escort websites like BackPage and EscortPolice.

Armstrong says, “There’s hundreds and hundreds, thousands of ads online even here in Sarasota.”

Then the cops call the call girls.

“I want you to know you are not in trouble, ok?" Officer Luis Paris tells one woman.

The SPD offers services of its own.

“Do you understand we are calling you to offer you help?” Armstrong tells one woman on the phone.

Officer Paris reassures “Maria,” a single mother of two that there is help available. “There are a lot of options and many girls are not aware of them. And Selah Freedom, they work here locally, they have turned a lot of women’s lives around.”

The officers are looking for juveniles and victims of human trafficking and anyone simply wanting out of the profession.

Armstrong says, “We had some girls hang up, several crying on the phone and saying they were thankful.”

“Thank you for the phone call,” says "Maria," who advertises on EscortPolice.com.

Maria has two kids - a 7-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl - and says she turned to prostitution out of need. She couldn’t get a job after getting out of jail three years ago.

Maria says, “Easy money, easy way out and my children have a roof over their head.” She adds, “There’s no requirements, no credentials, no looking up your records. (Clients) are soulless, no heart. They don’t care about you, your mind.  All they care about is one thing.”

She understands the dangers, saying "You’re at their mercy.”

But after a phone call from the SPD, Maria says she’s ready to call it quits and asks SPD to keep calling women like her.

“Keep reaching out. Most of us don’t believe there are any options or places like that. We’re so used to being judged, so for someone to reach out, especially the police department, it’s touching."

She adds, “It's given me a little bit of hope.”

Sarasota officers have called more than 100 women and connected with about 40 offering them resources to Selah Freedom, the Human Trafficking Hotline number (888 373-7888) and such as the Trafficking Resource Center of Florida.

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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