Sex Work

64 Face Jail After Elaborate Sting Aimed at 'Ending Demand' For Prostitution in Houston

At least 270 arrested in Houston prostitution stings since start of 2014

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imelda/Flickr

Dozens of men face jail time and thousands of dollars in fines for offering to pay undercover Houston police officers for sex. The arrests were part of an elaborate prostitution sting using a police-run "modeling studio" advertised on Backpage.com. The Houston Police Department (HPD) says these arrests will help "end demand" for sex trafficking. 

Granted, there's no reason to think any of the men arrested were seeking out sex-trafficking victims. Nor did they have reason to suspect that the women they were meeting were trafficked and not, as advertised, willing, adult sex workers (or, as not-advertised, undercover Houston police officers). But it plays so much better to tell the community you're catching sex traffickers than arresting average men for feeling a little lonely or horny and having the audacity to prefer purchasing sex directly. It's the same old vice squad, same old resource wasting, and same old results, of course, but now vice cops get to call themselves "trafficking task force" members. From the Houston Chronicle

The nondescript storefront at a southwest Houston shopping center did not carry a sign and was cloaked by thick curtains—for good reason. Sex was for sale inside. That's what scores of men believed in recent weeks as they stepped inside the building only to be snared by an elaborate sting at a bogus modeling studio opened by police.

The Houston Police Department on Wednesday announced an end to the operation after identifying 64 men who went to the fake business and agreed to buy sex from undercover officers. They were all charged with prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and as much as a $2,000 fine.

The sting, one of the largest in many years locally, was intended to cut into the city's burgeoning sex trafficking trade, which too often involves underage girls and women forced into prostitution, said HPD Capt. Dan Harris. By targeting customers, police hope to reduce demand for the illegal sex trade and protect women from exploitation. "Prostitution is not a victimless crime," said Harris, head of HPD's vice division. "It fuels the sex trafficking trade."

There's no real evidence that sex-trafficking is burgeoning in Houston, nor that it's filled with underage girls. Furthermore, there's no evidence that casting sporadic nets for would-be prostitution clients is at all effective at thwarting actual sex traffickers or helping actual victims. But police, in Houston and elsewhere, routinely repeat assertions like these, and media outlets (particularly TV news stations) routinely relay them unquestioningly.

The Houston Chronicle, however, offers up a little skepticism that such sting operations are the best use of police resources:

In a city where a recent manpower study noted that in 2013 HPD did not investigate 21,000 burglaries, assaults and hit-and-run accidents with workable leads, some residents questioned the use of limited resources to arrest low-level offenders.

"Honestly, I think they should be going after burglars, people who are breaking into cars," said Kafayat Ayodele, who shops at a Chinese grocery store in the mall. "Last year I went into a bank across the street, and there was a smash and grab. They broke into my car, took my purse, and I called police, and it took them almost three hours to get here."

Local lawyers and other residents in the neighborhood where police conducted the sting agreed.

Phillip Lyons, interim dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, said there is evidence that these sorts of prostitution stings deter one thing: "married men who are otherwise law-abiding" from attempting to pay for sex. As with all policies that crack down on "johns," this won't stop demand for sexual services, but it may dampen demand among a more wealthy, educated, or image-conscious clientele—leaving sex workers with more need to accept less savory clients.    

A policy that makes life more dangerous for sex workers, saddles innocent men with criminal records, and does not a darn thing to catch anyone who might actually be trafficking individuals for sex? Well done, HPD. Though the department did not release the budget for the sting operation, officers have been operating it since late January, and planning it for longer. The HPD's vice division employs 55 officers, who investigate gambling operations and sexually oriented businesses, according to the Chronicle. A recent HPD staffing report said the division needs more manpower, as it doesn't have time to conduct yearly inspections of the city's 72 strip clubs, 57 adult bookstores, and 140 spas and massage parlors.

February's prostitution sting is far from an anomaly in Houston. In January 2015, 100 alleged clients and 14 alleged sex workers were arrested in Harris County, where Houston is located, as part of a two-week prostitution sting, undertaken in conjunction with the "National Day of Johns Arrests" campaign. Last July and August, the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) arrested 23 alleged sex workers and 76 alleged clients during a three-week sting operation. A Houston sting in May 2014 led to 18 arrests and, in January 2014, an HCSO sting resulted in 57 arrests. 

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  1. Clothing is not a victimless crime. It fuels the sweatshop trade. Also, I’m quite sure that the people who invoke trafficking actually believe their argument and will therefore give due heed to the way in which criminal penalties for prostitution make trafficking easier to fight, right? Right?

    1. Clothing? How about iPhones?

      FoxConn is abusing its employees!!! Why aren’t they setting up stings in Apple stores to go after the demand side of this shit?

      http://www.cnet.com/news/watch…..ver-labor/

      1. That Foxconn thing is, for whatever reason, a point of contention for the girlfriend. Even after making the point about relative suicide rates, she’s convinced the plant (and, by extension, Apple) are committed to some nefarious employment practice.

        Those mobile goalposts really are obnoxious.

      2. Of course Foxconn is evil. The word “Fox” in their name should be a giveaway.

        -progtard

    2. Clothing is not a victimless crime.

      Your going naked is not a vicitmless crime, either.

    3. So you disagree with or deny the studies and reports that find that those “sweatshops” actually help their workers NOT go to the streets as prostitutes BECAUSE the sweatshop work is safer and might have a more stable income flow?

      Note to Houston Police… NO, IT DOESN’T lower demand, it just gets a lot of horny people arrested for making a free choice. I guess you Houston Police folks can’t handle that concept very well, eh?

      Sad.

  2. *trafficking harder to fight

  3. Apparently the number of arrests shows we are “winning” the war on prostitution, just like the number of people in jail shows we are “winning” the war on drugs.

    1. In researching this, I came across an amazing bit of a fact sheet on human trafficking in Texas: “A report published by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas found that 77% of local, state, and national law enforcement nation-wide perceive human trafficking as rare or non-existent in their communities… almost 70% of state and local prosecutors did not see human trafficking as a problem in their jurisdictions, and only 7% of those surveyed had prosecuted a case since 2000.” The group sees this not as evidence that perhaps trafficking isn’t the omnipresent problem it suspects but rather of “a continued lack of awareness among key groups in the fight against human trafficking.”

      1. How will they justify funding for their research if there isn’t any human trafficking?

      2. It’s amazing how the paucity of evidence doesn’t make a dent in their convictions. They believe it, so it must be so.

        1. It’s not a question of “believing” it. Whatever their obsession is with “sex trafficking”, it’s not an issue of believing these numbers. It’s how they can use them to further their obsession. If the numbers are high, that means there is a huge problem. If the numbers are low, it means there is a huge problem and no one is addressing it.

          Special interest obsessives have only one purpose: to push their pet issue to the forefront and gain attention and even power from doing so. So any numbers they come across get twisted to mean their issue is super important, no matter what those numbers actually are.

          1. not an issue of believing these numbers. It’s how they can use them to further their obsession

            Somaly Mam is proof positive of that.

            1. Yes, perfect example. I was actually thinking of that case when I wrote my comment. And of the numbers the rape obsessives throw around, which if they were true, would mean sending a girl to college is putting her in a 1 in 5 (20%) danger of being raped.

      3. That’s why they’re redefining prostitution to mean sex trafficking.

        Now it’s everywhere!

      4. “A continued lack of awareness among key groups in the fight against _______” is a great lede for any group with an axe to grind that no one else cares about. Anthropogenic global warming, slave labor at Foxconn, or format changes at Reason come to mind.

      5. Sex trafficking is becoming just like income inequality. Meaning, it is a serious problem in less developed countries, but not really in the US. However, we have people who want to make it out to be a huge problem in the US, and that unfortunately takes away from awareness of a real problem elsewhere.

        1. Keep in mind that, to the extent terrorists must forebear entangling alliances that might blow their cover, terrorists must seek other avenues of getting their covers blown (so to speak). Prostitution therefore directly aids and abets terrorists in maintaining their secretive plots against all decent folk. Do you want the terrorists to win?!?!

        2. A bit. But the comparison only goes so far. Actual human trafficking is inherently bad. Income inequality in less developed countries is generally a symptom of deeper problems of corruption and lack of property rights for the poor.

      6. The lack of evidence for sex trafficking is just evidence of the war on women.

      7. A report published by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas found that 77% of local, state, and national law enforcement nation-wide perceive human trafficking as rare or non-existent in their communities

        They’re in denial.

      8. Thanks for the addendum. Has anyone done the math & projected from these activists some ab, surd # of women who’d have to have disappeared into sex slavery for them to be correct? Like the reduction to absurdity of satanic ritual abuse of children, or deaths from environmental tobacco smoke?

  4. Apparently the number of arrests shows we are “winning” the war on prostitution, just like the number of people in jail shows we are “winning” the war on drugs.

    1. Apparently double posting has not been resolved in the latest incarnation of HnR.

    2. All we need now, to finally win this battle after thousands of years, is just a little more funding.

      1. I initially read that as :”All we need now, to finally win this battle after thousands of years, is just a little more fucking.

        1. If wives were willing to do the things hookers are willing to do, this might just work!

          1. A little, but that still won’t address the problem of men who can’t or won’t get wives, or the taste for occasional strange.

            1. Or any of the following…

              marriages where the man just isn’t attracted to his wife sexually any longer but still loves her and does not want to leave her.

              marriages where the man is browbeaten (and possibly even physically beaten) to the point of submission by his wife and is just looking for an outlet to feel like a man again.

              marriages where the husband and wife have grown to hate each other but are staying together for the children

              Guys who travel or work too much to have the time to develop a steady relationship

              Guys who don’t want anything to do with a relationship and just want to get laid

              1. Yeah. To people worried about the effects on marriage (our resident Catholic troll, for instance), I’d say that going to a prostitute is probably less likely to ruin a marriage than hooking up with some woman at a bar or something and possibly developing an actual relationship.

  5. Only 72 strip clubs? That number seems low.

  6. In another recent bust of a happy ending parlor, the two sex workers arrested were aged 60 and 48. Young women can strip and make great money. Why would they work in sketchy sex shops? The cops have to sell young white girls in slavery or no one would care.

    1. My bad. There was a 33 year old and a 44 year old charged as well. It also appears that rub-n-tug might be another one of those jobs that Americans won’t do

  7. “Ending demand” for prostitution?!
    Who in hell thinks they could EVER do that? I’ll bet that guy’s got a pig in the back yard with some wings strapped on!

    1. AND a sheep, if you catch my drift.

      1. He’s an aviation lawyer?

    2. No Prostitution == No LoveBoat Scandal == Vikings Superbowl Win

      Vikings Superbowl Win == Flying Porker

      1. The Vikings would have found some other way to blow it. Think Gary Anderson.

        1. Uffda Ted!

          You have to admit that even your tiny cheesehead brain realizes that the only thing bigger than the vast rightwing conspiracy that holds Hillary down, is the vast NFL conspiracy to keep the Vikes down?

  8. 55 cops and they need more? Each cop would have to do almost 5 inspections a year with the current force. The struggle is real.

    1. An acquaintance of mine used to run a credit card company and one of the places he had his machines installed was at a local strip club.

      According to him, whenever there was a call for maintenance on one of the machines at the strip club, his techs would nearly get into fist fights over who got to go on the call.

      To them it was a chance to watch naked gals on company time. I can’t believe that these inspections were any less onerous to the officers.

      1. A long time ago, the company I was a part owner in, installed phone systems in the DFW area. Several of our clients were On Harry Hines Blvd. I remember we always installed the KSU in the dressing room area. Great for service calls 😉

  9. “end demand” for sex trafficking

    Right, people have been trying to end demand for prostitution (which is what this is really about) for 6,000 years, but the HPD finally has it figured out!

    1. Uh. We have records of people ranting against prostitution for 6000 years. Its probably got an even longer pedigree.

      1. Well apes have been documented trading food for sex. We branched off about 7 or 8 million years ago so yeah long time. This generation is going to end it though cause they’re super cereal.

  10. This new format is a motherfucking mess.

    1. “Take your motherfucking format
      Out the motherfucking door
      And don’t come back
      No motherfucking more.”

    2. At the top of the page, click “View Full Size”. That should fix it.

  11. How dare these creeps attempt to offer fair compensation in exchange for sexual services! Why can’t they just lie, manipulate, and trick women into having sex with them like REAL men do?

  12. And that’s when the whores come in!!

  13. Phillip Lyons, interim dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, said there is evidence that these sorts of prostitution stings deter one thing: “married men who are otherwise law-abiding” from attempting to pay for sex.

    Which is all the justification some people need.

    1. Somebody knows nothing whatsoever about marriage if he thinks married men don’t pay for sex. Go ask Adam what sex with Eve cost him.

      1. I heard a comedian once(can’t remember who exactly) say that women hate hookers because they view them as scabs crossing the picket line.

        1. Yeah but it is not so much scabs crossing a picket line, it is more like they view them the same way the local Boutique views a Wal Mart.

          Offering a functionally equivalent product at a seriously discounted price because it is not that women as a general rule don’t want to have sex with their husbands, it is that they want to use that sex to control him

  14. The Houston Police Department (HPD) says these arrests will help “end demand” for sex trafficking.

    Congratulations HPD, you haven’t done a goddamn thing to end the demand for sex trafficking (cause there is soooo much of that going on here), but you HAVE managed to fucking destroy the lives of 64 men who did nothing more than ask for a happy ending.

    Fuck you.

  15. Not only all that, but this type of oper’n doesn’t even target the type of prostitution that bothers neighbors: street walkers. No, this discourages men from seeking the most discreet call-girl type of business that bothers nobody if not for this “trafficking” nonsense.

  16. “Ending demand!”

    They think that they are working towards ending the demand for prostitution?

    I thought that pot was still illegal in Texas.

    It is?

    The police must be smoking something that makes them think that busting lonely men for wanting the comfort of a lady’s companionship will reduce the demand for prostitution.

    Better check the seized drug inventory.

  17. It is a matter of good health.

    According to this article: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/ar…..”

    White males that have a higher ejaculation frequency also have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

    Summary:
    ” In summary, our results among predominantly white men suggest that ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer. High ejaculation frequency may possibly be associated with a lower risk of total and organ-confined prostate cancer. It is unlikely that reverse causation, differences in prostate cancer screening behavior, or confounding are entirely responsible for the observed results. Mechanisms other than the link between androgenicity and ejaculation frequency should be evaluated as potential etiological factors underlying the inverse association between ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer.”

  18. 270 arrested:
    Some of these bad men were probably eligible bachelors, good looking, with good jobs. This will teach them that from now on, when they have a strong desire to feel the comforting warmth of a female body, they should find an unsuspecting prospective lady, buy her dinner, tell her that they want a long lasting meaningful relationship, string her on until they accomplish the feeling of comforting warmth.

    Some of these bad men were possibly married with children. It’s time to expose them, end those marriages; the children will do just fine with one parent.

    Some of these bad men were possibly in Houston conducting business, bringing commerce to Texas. This will teach them not to come here looking to pay for the warmth of a consenting adult companion.

    Some of these bad men were possibly divorced, homely, hairy old and fat. This will teach them that they must live the rest of their lives without the warmth of a companion.

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