Undercover prostitution sting nets 21
Sex trade generates other crimes, police say
David Combs talks Wednesday to an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute near Fremont Street and Sierra Nevada Way, above, before he was pulled over and cited by Stockton police.CALIXTRO ROMIAS/The Record
STOCKTON - Wilson Way is busy at midday. Men park in the shade and in parking lots and along the street. They eat lunch with their pickup's windows rolled down, and sometimes call out to the women walking by.
Do you date?
On Wednesday, that question had a good chance of drawing police, instead of leading to a sex-for-money transaction at a motel, or in the front seat of a car. The Stockton Police Department had undercover officers posing as prostitutes waiting for those overtures and walking high-traffic spots on Wilson Way and Sierra Nevada Street.
The mission, run by the Police Department's vice unit, started at noon. Within minutes, and after a short conversation with an undercover officer in the shade of a tree at the corner of Fremont and Sierra Nevada streets, 59-year-old David Combs was stopped by police and cited for allegedly soliciting an act of prostitution.
Before the police were finished with Combs, there were reporters at his car. "I was just trying to eat my lunch," he said.
That the Police Department, after deep budget cuts, still has time and resources for missions like Wednesday's was good news to Agnes Howe, a Neighborhood Watch captain who lives on Sierra Nevada Street.
"I like it when they do the johns, because you've got to hit them in the pocketbook," Howe said. "And the divorce lawyers probably like it."
Police Vice Sgt. Jim Chraska said prostitution, both the crime and the economy around it, generates other crimes. Prostitutes are beaten, intimidated and robbed, and often targeted by rapists and murderers. The people who pay prostitutes for sex are sometimes lured to motel rooms and alleys, where they are robbed, beaten or worse.
"These johns could have been the victims of robberies," Chraska said.
And the spread of sexually transmitted diseases makes victims of people who had otherwise nothing to do with prostitution.
The neighborhoods, like those around Wilson Way, are also affected in other ways. Howe has lived on Sierra Nevada Street for 23 years. Prostitution draws other problems to the neighborhood. It's not uncommon, she said, to see men scoping the neighborhood for burglary targets.
"Some of them are guys walking by holding up their pants because they refuse to wear a belt," she said.
Once, a man walked into Howe's home and demanded she turn on the TV. He didn't leave until police came to take him.
"We need all the help we can get," Howe said. "We can't be overrun because of cuts and layoffs; you can't let the little guy down."
By the mission's end, around 7 p.m., the Police Department had cited 21 people for soliciting prostitution from undercover officers.
Contact reporter Christian Burkin at (209) 546-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/burkinblog.
Stockton criminal defense attorney Lance Jacot has experience in defending men accused of soliciting prostitutes, and women who are accused of being prostitutes. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney in San Joaquin County contact The Jacot Law Firm. Local number (209) 463-1800, toll free number 888-823-4883.