February 19, 2007
Three months after a Charlottesville police sting nets several prostitution arrests there are still women working the streets.
Area residents and business owners are still seeing ladies of the evening out on the corner of Cherry Avenue all times of the day.
“There are several prostitutes who will inhabit the corner over here. They will step out into the street and flag people down. They dance on the corner. You’ll see regulars come by,” said William Pensyl, employee of the Charlottesville Flowerman.
Pensyl said he sees prostitutes flagging down clients morning, noon and night. And when he doesn't see them he still knows they're there.
“Oh there's been evidence, clothing, and I really don't know how to say the other thing,” said Pensyl.
A November police sting, called Operation Hook Up found evidence also these seven women arrested, fined and returned to the streets.
I think even long after our most recent sting operation there is still evidence of prostitution on our streets,” said Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo.
We caught up with two women arrested. Both behind bar on other charges.
“Let's be clear you are not a prostitute.”
“No, I am not a prostitute,” a woman arrested during the latest sting told us.
She denies the allegations though she pleaded guilty to the offense.
“I wasn't gonna have sex with him that day anyway. I was gonna drink his liquor and go home,” she said.
Another woman admits she's worked the streets for years.
“I prostituted from age 17 to 21 and then I quit for 8 years and started up again last year,” the women told us.
Both say prostitution here is a problem.
“I see them out there all the time,” said the first woman.
“It’s growing. It’s like a phenomenon…on Cherry Avenue is usually where it is at,” said the second woman.
Mostly, they said, its women supporting a drug habit.
“They do anything for drugs, 5 and 10 dollars,” said the first woman.
Sometimes they're paid more.
I got anywhere from $20 to $150 depending on what you did,” the second woman told us.
And this woman continually got away with it. That is until a cell phone conversation got her busted.
“He promised me the Omni hotel and it sounded very enticing and little did I know he was an undercover cop,” said the woman.
Arresting the women doesn't seem to keep them off the streets long, not knowing a better way, thinking its easy money they usually go back.
“It's the oldest profession and I don't know what it would take to make it stop,” said the woman.
Neither does police.
“We are doing the very best we can to minimize it especially around our public spaces our parks,” said Longo.
I wouldn't want my 5 year-old playing in the park where the prostitutes operate,” said Pensyl
As for the woman in our story who admits being a prostitute she said she is giving it all up and going back to her husband and children.
And as for police they say they will continue to fight this problem both overtly and covertly.