Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Police: Policing Complainantless Crimes - Why Law Enforcement Action Is Requested For Victimless Crimes, Police Tactics Employed In Victimless Crimes, Extrapolation To Other Types Of Criminality

Police: Policing Complainantless Crimes - Police Tactics Employed In Victimless Crimes

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Once the police receive a complaint related to the commercial sex trade from either a willing participant who has been somehow harmed or, more typically, from an unwilling bystander, they may respond in several ways. If the complaint involves a specific crime (e.g., a robbery), the police will investigate the crime if warranted. If the complaint alleges some broader pattern of criminality (e.g., an active stroll), detectives may conduct a surveillance operation to ascertain the scope of the problem while the patrol officers on the beat direct more attention to the location. Beat officers have at their disposal a variety of options to dissuade prostitutes and their customers from continuing their activities in the area. One option employed as an initial strategy is to make frequent stops at commercial establishments and other places where prostitutes loiter and provide their services. Doing so discourages prostitutes and customers from making contact and consummating deals. It also produces a feeling of security among the general public and shows that the police are sensitive to community concerns.

If the increased presence of uniformed law enforcement officers does not serve as a deterrent, officers may initiate progressively more proactive measures with increasingly more severe consequences for the offenders. Officers may, for example, enforce traffic violations more rigorously, for example, by issuing summons to johns who block traffic lanes while chatting with known prostitutes. Police often lecture suspected customers about the impropriety of cruising for prostitutes and offer stern warnings that they not return to the area. Likewise, officers may cite streetwalkers for illegal hitchhiking or for impeding pedestrian traffic on sidewalks.

Expanded police presence and an increase in enforcement of illegal activities associated with prostitution sometimes prove insufficient methods of controlling the problem. When more drastic measures are necessary, the police will often institute a variation of the "sting" operation where officers, men or women, will pose as participants in the prostitution trade—as either prostitutes or johns—in order to make criminal cases against the real participants. This tactic generally involves the use of decoys in a two-stage effort. The first stage, directed at the prostitutes, involves undercover officers posing as potential customers who attempt to elicit an offer of sex for money. This method presents legal barriers because entrapment laws require that the prostitute herself (or himself) offer sex for money. Moreover, the law requires that the prostitute explicitly state the sexual services being offered and the exact amount of money to be exchanged. If these requirements are not met, the police will not make an arrest because they realize that their case will not stand up in court.

Even when the police make successful cases, prostitution stings often have little long-term impact on the overall level of commercial sexual activity in a given community because prostitutes view arrest and incarceration as little more than a minor inconvenience, a part of the cost of doing business. Prostitutes respond by laying low for a period or changing locations until the police ease enforcement efforts. They rarely leave the business altogether.

The second stage of prostitution sting operations is directed at customers. In this phase, female officers posing as prostitutes will loiter in the area of the stroll. When customers approach and offer money for sex, they are arrested. Because being arrested is extremely embarrassing for many customers, the police anticipate that a substantial portion of them will resist arrest. Consequently, decoys are supported by other officers who perform the actual arrest and convey the customer to a detention facility. The decoy is then free to prepare the proper reports for prosecution.

Modern technology has improved prosecution in both types of sting operations with sensory-enhancing technology such as night vision optics and audio amplification equipment. Video and audio recordings have been introduced in many court proceedings. In some cases the people legitimately living and working in the affected areas have been allowed to state in open court how the neighboring street hustling has negatively affected their quality of life. In an increasing number of municipalities, the names and even pictures of arrested participants have been published by the local news media.

The efficacy of all of these enforcement techniques has been augmented through the assistance of officers whose primary assignment is the investigation of juvenile crime and status offenses (runaways). These officers will check the areas frequented by street hookers and their pimps in an attempt to locate curfew violators, investigate child exploitation in sexually oriented businesses (nude model studios, massage parlors, and cabarets featuring topless and nude dancers), and return runaways to their parents or guardians. Any adults present with juveniles will be investigated and prosecuted when appropriate.

With some minor modifications the same law enforcement tactics can also be applied to the upper and middle segments of the prostitution spectrum. However, because the call girl and, to a lesser degree, the mid-range bar hustler are less likely to conduct business in the open, complaints to the police and subsequent enforcement responses are less frequent.

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