WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Police in the city's Fourth Police District say they'll continue to conduct sting operations to arrest prostitutes and their customers, after a sting last weekend netted more than a dozen arrests near busy Georgia Avenue.
"We ended up locking up three females which we charged with prostitution offenses after deploying our male undercover officers and, once we did that, we deployed our female undercover officers and we netted 10 arrests of males or johns for prostitution related offenses," said Lt. John Haines, who does not believe prostitution is a victimless crime.
"I've seen females, prostitutes, who have been the victims of murder, assault, sexual assault, robbery.
"I've seen johns who have also been the victims of ADW (assault with a dangerous weapon), stabbings, shootings and robberies. A lot of johns tend to get robbed both by potential prostitutes and by people who victimize both the prostitutes and the johns because they feel they are easy victims who are not going to report their crimes to the police," Haines told 9NewsNow.
A group that attempts to help prostitutes leave the life is not sure arrests are a good idea.
"I think the problem is that, by using law enforcement as one of the primary tools for cracking down on street prostitution, we're actually exacerbating the problem and that's because we find in our agency many people come to us and they either have not been hired or have been fired from jobs because having a solicitation offense on your record can be a reason not to hire you..
"So, unfortunately when people are arrested they enter this kind of cycle of incarceration, not being able to find work, being forced back out on the streets because they have very few other options.
"So, when law enforcement are locking people up as kind of our first tool I think it really just continues this cycle of problems and doesn't really get us where we want to go," said Cyndee Clay of the group HIPS, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive.
"I think what we should be doing instead is we really need to be looking at what is really available in this city as far as jobs and job training programs.
"We need to increase and protect our job safety net so that no one who is on the streets has to be there because they can't find a job or find any other way to feed themselves.
"We have many people who we work with who are on the streets because they are struggling with addiction issues and we need access to treatment programs," Clay said.