By Mary Meaux
The News staff writer
How far will local police go to track down and arrest a prostitute?
In nearby Beaumont, two officers are embroiled in a legal battle regarding whether they were given official permission to engage in sexual acts with women suspected of prostitution at a spa/massage parlor.
In the city of Port Arthur where prostitute stings occur on a fairly regular basis, the department’s stance is that an officer’s work stops before a law is broken.
Sgt. Ken Carona of the Port Arthur Police Department’s Internal Affairs office has acted as a decoy in numerous such stings in his career. Carona said neither he nor any of his officers have ever had sex with suspects during a prostitution sting.
“We dress the part, you don’t want to look like a police officer, and use a car that doesn’t look like a police car,” he said. “Usually they (prostitutes) flag you down.”
From there the prostitute gets in the vehicle with the officer in disguise and makes a deal offering a sex act for an amount of money. Once the deal is agreed upon an arrest is made.
One area used in prostitute stings is in the vicinity of Seventh Street and Savannah Avenue, he said.
During the sting operation a female officer will play the part of a prostitute. After a man goes through the process of soliciting sex and the money part of the deal, the suspect, or “John,” is arrested. Once the Johns are off the street, the male officers focus on getting the prostitutes off the street.
“We have never been sent in to a business,” he said. “We deal with street walking prostitutes and Johns.”
Carona said the department does not have written policy regarding such conduct and stressed he and his officers have made numerous arrests and have never completed a sex act with a suspect.
On Aug. 28, PAPD initiated a prostitute sting and detained three women, Scott Gaspard said. But instead of arresting the suspects they were sent to the H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Excel) Center on West Seventh Street. If the women cooperate with the organization they will not be charged with prostitution.
The H.O.P.E. Center offers General Education Diploma classes, outreach for drug abusers and other such community services.
Gaspard said the women agreed to cooperate with the program and he feels the situation went well.
Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush said his department does not have written policy regarding sex stings but prostitution hasn’t been an issue in the city in the decades he has been a law enforcement officer.
While there are no massage parlors in Groves selling sex as was the allegation involving Beaumont officers in their cities, there once was a maintenance man running a prostitution ring from the motel.
Police were alerted to unusual business at the motel around 2004 and set up a sting, City Marshal Jeff Wilmore said. Wireless cameras and high tech equipment were used and a maintenance man was charged with felony promotion of prostitution.
“The ladies would come up to the men and solicit directly,” he said.
The alleged prostitutes would go so far as walk to the nearby highway, he said.
At no time have Groves police made sexual contact with prostitutes, he said.
While Groves does not have an official policy, Wilmore laid out steps he would use if the need for such policy came up.
First, officials would come up with a plan for that particular offense related to that situation then pass the information through the District Attorney’s office. Once the DA’s office lends approval, then an official plan or policy is born.
By Mary Meaux
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