The world’s oldest profession is having a hard time surviving in West New York, and Union City may become more difficult stomping grounds as well.
Since the new year, the Street Crimes Unit of the West New York Police Department has busted a whopping eight prostitution operations, many of which were investigated thanks to tips from residents, they said.
Beginning with the arrests of six people during a bust on New Year’s Eve, the Police Department has been busting nearly one prostitution operation bust per week.
Why all of a sudden?
The going rate is $30 per sex act.
“We follow through on every complaint,” said Bringa last week. “The whole department is very dedicated towards the community.”
He added that some of the women who have been arrested cited the current economic situation as their reason for getting involved in prostitution. He hopes the recent arrests will serve as a warning call to others contemplating or currently involved in such activity.
Business cards, a $30 rate, and other conundrums
The prostitution profession has been updated to fit the times. Police said it is less common these days to see prostitutes standing on a corner or even utilizing massage parlor fronts; rather, they are more likely to use internet sites like Craigslist to advertise.
Operations in Union City and West New York have especially been known to use business cards as a marketing method. The cards, typically distributed on Bergenline Avenue, feature a bogus business along with hours of operation and a phone number.
The cost for sex in those operations is usually around $30, and contrary to preconceived notions of nighttime trysts, the majority of the activity occurs during the day or before 10 p.m.
Undercover detectives said that prostitutes questioned after being arrested have admitted they set a time limit for the $30 sessions and it is just sex, no talking or socialization.
While female prostitution has been the center of the most recent busts, police have also arrested those involved in male and transsexual prostitution.
Undercover officers are also sometimes used to catch the “johns” who are the customers in the illegal act.
Busting these operations takes time and careful procedure from the police before moving in on the suspects, but taking out one small prostitution operation can sometimes reap a bounty of information regarding other illegal activity, such as drugs.
Because of the overlapping nature of the towns along Bergenline Avenue, police departments often have to work together to combat any type of illegal activity which may be occurring.
Last year in Union City, officers of the street crimes unit made several prostitution busts, which may be the reason activity in that area has been subdued recently, Union City police said.
“We suppressed it in a sense,” said Union City Detective Ruben Rodriguez. “They’re still doing it in Union City, but not as open as they were doing it before.”
Rodriguez added that the department is continuing to work on that front. “We’ve gotten tips and we’re going to start working on them as well,” said Rodriguez.
Union City Chief Charles Everett said that despite their continued vigilance, prostitution remains an issue. “We do devote a significant amount of investigative work into that area,” said Police Chief Charles Everett. “And we have historically been on top of it.”
Everett said that what makes the particular type of operations found in Union City and West New York difficult to obliterate altogether is that they are relatively small. “They’re not big operations,” said Everett. “It’s often one or two girls working out of a house.”
Because the operations are smaller, they don’t attract a lot of public attention and the complaints that usually trigger investigations.
Neither police from Union City or West New York were able to say why the prostitutes have chosen this area, but they pointed out that it’s not just in their towns; it’s a “crime of opportunity” that happens everywhere. There has been a larger focus on it in these areas because the police are going after every tip they get, they said.
They said that even though the prostitutes may seem low on the crime totem pole, they can harm the community the most because they live in it, whereas big operations will move somewhere else. While last year, some of the Union City prostitutes came from New York City and Queens, most of those captured this year live in Hudson County, police said.
They also noted that prostitution can be dangerous for the women. Aside from the threat of arrest, disease, and unwanted pregnancy, the amount of danger they’re in depends on the pimp for whom they are working, and the customers they pick up. Police said that nearly every one of the recent busts included arrests of pimps, though they can be harder to catch. They flee the scene quickly when the police come in and don’t care about leaving the women behind.
Bringa said last week that he attributes the large amount of arrests to dedicated officers and support from the public.
“I’m very proud of the entire police force,” said West New York Mayor Sal Vega. “What I’m especially proud of is that a lot of these apprehensions have been because the community has gotten involved.”
Contrary to recent postings in online community forums, Bringa said that the people who have been arrested in recent prostitution activity are all U.S. citizens, and he has not seen a tie to human immigrant trafficking.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A community effort
Both West New York and Union City police departments attribute their ability to stop prostitution operations to help from the community. Police advised that residents concerned about prostitution in their neighborhood can look for certain signs which may be indicative of such illegal activity taking place.
Residents should be aware of a lot of pedestrian traffic in and out of apartments every 10-15 minutes, including a heavy volume of strangers who don’t live there. They should also pay attention to business card distribution, particularly when it doesn’t seem to be a legitimate business being advertised, such as a company that offers home delivery of perfume.
The cards may also post suspicious business hours and usually have a provocative photograph of a female.
West New York residents can report any suspicious activity to (201) 295-5047. In Union City residents should call (201) 348-5800 or (201) 348-5804. – LRD