Prostitution in outer East Portland is decreasing — but still present

Street-sex Update: See how consistent police presence, and neighbor participation, have reduced the number of street prostitutes working 82nd Avenue of Roses. But, read this and you’ll find prostitution hasn’t left the avenue completely …

Driven by a never-ending supply of customers – such as this fellow, suspected of soliciting prostitution, and being taken of to jail to be booked – street-level prostitution will continue, albeit at a reduced level, even with the efforts of police, neighbors, and the judicial system.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
All during the summer, blatant prostitution flourished along 82nd Avenue of Roses…until neighbors and business people made their voices heard – and demanded action.

Crime stats show improvement
The payoff: Gone are the gaudily-dressed women wearing outrageous makeup, strutting up and down 82nd Avenue in four-inch heels, arm-in-arm with their “pimp-daddy”.

Between mid-August and mid-October, officers arrested 148 individuals including 56 johns, 88 prostitutes, and one individual promoting prostitution activity, reported Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz.

When we talked with PPB East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs this week, he told us officers made 78 arrests during prostitution-related sweeps between mid-October and the first of December. “While our officers were observing prostitution-related activities and consequently spoke with arrested subjects, some of those arrested were picked up for outstanding warrants – not necessarily prostitution activities,” Crebs clarified.

“We’ve seen a decrease in prostitution-related activity on 82nd Avenue,” confirmed Crebs. “We’ve seen fewer arrests due to enforcement –and the weather. But, some are still out there.”

Although prostitution has declined, some alleged prostitutes – like this woman, being handcuffed by undercover officers – are still refusing to stop their street soliciting.

Still selling sex along the avenue
To get a feel for what’s happening now along 82nd Avenue, we rode along in an unmarked police cruiser with East Precinct’s Sgt. David Golliday – joining a team of police officers running an anti-prostitution mission, a couple of weeks ago.

At different times, Golliday said, he’s been working such missions over the last 4 ½ years.

Looking back over the summer months, Golliday said he’d witnessed the marked increase in street prostitution first-hand. “With that came more crime issues, livability issues, and more complaints from both neighbors and businesses. And, we’ve had more violence. We’ve had two alleged pimps killed – and prostitutes have been assaulted.”

Prostitution allegedly in progress
As “spotters” report known prostitutes on the police radio – and those behaving as if they are trying to pick up customers – we watched a fairly young woman, reportedly on the stroll, look around at passing cars.

She hopped into a late-model BMW, which ended up in a motel parking lot just south of SE Holgate Boulevard. She got out of the car and walked briskly toward the motel office. Instead of going in to rent a room, she broke out into a full run around the side of the building, southbound on the sidewalk.

With a $100 bill allegedly still in her pocket, this young woman didn’t rent a room at the hotel like she told her “friend” in the car she would – but instead ran next door into an auto parts store restroom, and started trying to change her appearance.

Takes the money and runs
The woman took no notice of the unmarked police car, and almost ran over our hood in the way to the auto parts store next door. Golliday followed her into the store; employees say she locked herself in the employee restroom. The sergeant tapped lightly on the restroom door and asks softly, “Hey, are you all right in there? We’re worried about you. Are you sure you’re OK? Please open the door.”

The young woman opened the door and looked very surprised to see Golliday.

The driver of the BMW told officers the fleeing woman was “a friend of his”. When the gravity of the situation became evident to the man, he was asked if the $100 bill found in the woman’s possession was his, he said that it was. He seemed surprised to learn that the woman had not gone into the hotel, but instead, took off running when she was out of his sight, and was caught trying to change her appearance.

The driver of this BMW lost more than his $100 – his car is now being towed because he was charged with soliciting prostitution.

Shows she “knows the system”
Until the woman suspected of soliciting prostitution – or, on this occasion, being a rip-off artist – could be transported in another squad car, she was temporarily seated in the back of Golliday’s vehicle.

At first, the woman spoke softly and sweetly, telling Golliday that “It was all a mistake” and she’d “never been involved in prostitution”. Her demeanor changed when the sergeant told her she’d been under surveillance and they’d seen the entire transaction.

“At least you can’t exclude me!” she shouted, her speech now loaded with expletives. “They’ve dumped the Prostitution-free Zone. I don’t care if you do take me to jail. I don’t care if you arrest me. Downtown (in the Justice Center), its book-and-release. I’ll be back out here working later tonight!” she shrieked.

Hopes City’s new treatment plan is successful
Asked if he felt discouraged because of the “revolving jail door” downtown, Golliday responded, “These missions, alone, are helping to reduce the problem.”

Referring to the City of Portland’s new plan to treat convicted prostitutes, the sergeant added, “What we want is get convicted prostitutes on probation, so we can use that to get them involved in social services programs. This program will have sufficient bed space to get them off the street and help them learn life skills so they can stay the street.”

If they choose not to participate, he added, they can be excluded from (high prostitution) areas without exception – meaning they can be arrested for merely strolling along 82nd Avenue.

“I think with aggressive enforcement, the District Attorney’s office working diligently on these cases, and the judges putting these women on probation status – plus the social services aspect – we could see street-level prostitution reduced significantly.”

In the next Street Sex Update:
We’ll question neighbors to see if the new program is really working. And, we’ll grill two Multnomah County District Attorneys regarding how this judicial strategy works.

Also, has the City actually followed up, and contracted for residential treatment for prostitutes?

Check back next week – you’ll get the answers, right here at, East Portland News.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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