Allegheny County and Pittsburgh police go in opposite directions in prostitution enforcement

Allegheny County, PA police have largely stopped arresting prostitutes, while Pittsburgh’s bureau intends to beef up its vice effort starting next month.

Their opposite approaches reflect diverging opinions in law enforcement and in society regarding the “oldest profession.”

“Society is sending us some mixed messages in terms of prostitution,” said county police Superintendent Coleman McDonough. His force logged just one prostitution arrest in the first 11 months of this year.

He noted that some people perceive the men and women advertising their bodies online or on corners as sex workers, or as victims, and those people [sane] contend “that arrests are not in [prostitutes’] best interests.”

Pittsburgh police, by contrast, made 88 prostitution-related arrests through November of this year.

Allegheny County and Pittsburgh police go in opposite directions in prostitution enforcement

Here’s the most nauseating part, wherein a cop shows us why everyone hates a cop:

It’s not all about jailing people, said Jason Lando, commander of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s narcotics and vice division. He said he knows “that sometimes the only way to get these people help is to use the teeth of criminal prosecution. … We have the ability to go to court and say, ‘Judge, we don’t want to see this person necessarily go to jail, but they need to be in some sort of a rehabilitation program.’”

Wow, thanks Commander — how kind and generous of you to use state violence to kidnap citizens and make them do what you want “for their own good.” My fucking hero.

In just four years, prostitution enforcement in the county has changed dramatically. In 2015, the county police were tops in prostitution arrests, with the Pittsburgh police close behind, followed by the departments policing hotel-rich Moon, Harmar and North Fayette.

This year, through November, Pittsburgh dominated, followed by Robinson and Hampton, with the county police a virtual non-factor.

“Just like every other law enforcement agency, we have finite resources,” explained Superintendent McDonough. The county, in late 2018, decided to focus on the drug trafficking that has been linked to record fatal overdoses, and on homicides.

On Allegheny County Council, there’s some bipartisan support for a less-handcuff-heavy approach to those who sell sex.

“I certainly care about the people that are doing this — and maybe feel that this is their only means of support — and would love to get them help,” said Sam DeMarco, the Republican at-large member of council, adding that social services, rather than policing, may be the best tool.

At-large councilwoman-elect Bethany Hallam, a Democrat, advocates decriminalization of sex work. “That’s the path we can get Allegheny County on,” she said. “Instead of a police officer showing up [to meet a sex worker] with handcuffs and guns, it’s a social worker showing up.”

Superintendent McDonough noted that the county still has a detective assigned to the FBI-led human trafficking task force. But he added that county prostitution arrests have only rarely led to human trafficking arrests. “I would say less than 1% had any potential connection to any human trafficking cases,” he said.

That 1% figure seems close to the mark. From 2015 through November, courts in Allegheny County have seen 914 prostitution-related cases. The federal court based Downtown, which handles the bulk of the sex trafficking cases for the Pittsburgh region, has charged just 10 defendants for such crimes since 2015.

Hampton saw a need to work the prostitution beat because the cluster of hotels near the Turnpike’s exit to Route 8 were drawing more prostitutes driven by opioid addiction, according to Chief Thomas Vulakovich and a detective who asked not to be named.

The detective patrols websites on which people advertise sexual services, stakes out hotspots, records license plate numbers and takes tips from citizens. He then pretends to be a customer, sets up a rendezvous and makes the bust.

From May through September, Hampton’s effort led to arrests of:

  • a Millvale-area woman, 30, who paid her driver, 36, from Franklin Park, two stamp bags of heroin to bring her to the rendezvous point
  • a 30-year-old woman from Tarentum who showed up for her appointment with a used syringe
  • two North Side women, ages 31 and 32, who showed up with a crack pipe, used stamp bags and a syringe
  • a 20-year-old Marshall-Shadeland woman who showed up with crack
  • a 47-year-old McKees Rocks woman who arrived with six open stamp bags, syringes, a cooking spoon, a tourniquet and a crack pipe.

Chief Vulakovich said that prostitution enforcement tamps down one avenue by which people feed addictions, and reduces the likelihood that someone fresh from a rendezvous and high on heroin will end up behind the wheel on his township’s roads.

Well now, here’s a thought” maybe if you decriminalized prostitution, sex workers would;t be forced to live in the underworld with dealers, addicts and violent criminals.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

539230cookie-checkAllegheny County and Pittsburgh police go in opposite directions in prostitution enforcement

Allegheny County and Pittsburgh police go in opposite directions in prostitution enforcement

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2 Responses

  1. I have to assume that the bold paragraphs are the reporter’s opinion. I have to agree that pigs don’t need to be arresting hookers. As for drugs (a reason listed in the article to arrest prostitutes), I abhor illegal use of drugs but don’t think that should be an arrestable offense, either. I would prefer my country’s limited piggifer resources be spend on things less piggish like arresting, torturing and executing murderers and rapists, leaving the drug addicts, prostitutes, drunk drivers, speeders and the like alone to live any way they can. Obviously you should still be responsible for your actions, if you drive drunk and kill someone or your drugs are spiked with enough bathtub fentanyl to kill an elephant and you kill a user you should be liable for the crime of involuntary manslaughter, if you severely injure someone or give someone AIDS as a prostitute it should be attempted involuntary manslaughter. However, drunk and drugged driving/use themselves as well as prostitution (no matter how much “fun” piggifers have raping them on the way to the precinct and I bet 90% of hooker arrests include a piggifer rape while still cuffed and stuffed), pandering and the like should not be crimes of their own.

  2. States don’t like people making money they don’t get their cut from in the form of taxes. I’m sure next to no hookers report all their income on their taxes hence one reason why cities and states crack down on it.

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