Sex propaganda sells

DA’s office solicits media coverage for two-day ‘john’ stings, doesn’t mention its partners locked up twice as many women for prostitution

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the September 13, 2018, issue.

A coalition with the stated mission of disrupting human trafficking in the Sacramento region touted the results of a crackdown on the men who pay for sexual favors. But the press release from the county district attorney’s office, which created the Sacramento Together coalition in 2015, omitted one crucial detail: Considerably more women are arrested for prostitution-related offenses—contradicting the message that authorities are zeroing in on the men who purportedly fund sexual exploitation.

According to a press release from District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, five local law enforcement agencies conducted “john” stings at motels scattered around the county on August 27 and 29. The second annual Operation: Hot Spots reportedly nabbed 16 men, all for soliciting prostitution, though SN&R could only verify booking records for 14.

What the DA’s press release left out is that 25 women were also arrested for prostitution-related crimes during this period. Nineteen of the arrests occurred in the week following the two-day operation. Some who work with sex workers criticized Hot Spots for failing to work as advertised, and for being intentionally misleading about law enforcement’s focus during the rest of the year.

“You can’t even wrap that up as a good statistic,” said Kristen DiAngelo, director of the local chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, or SWOP. “They didn’t get one human trafficker. They didn’t get one human trafficking victim. They didn’t even get one pimp. What did they do? They arrested 40 consensual adults.”

A review of three weeks of booking logs shows that authorities arrested 28 women and 15 men on prostitution-related offenses from August 20 through September 5. A week before Hot Spots, an 18-year-old Sacramento man was arrested on a charge of procuring another person for the purpose of prostitution, commonly known as pandering. A week after the operation, a 19-year-old Sacramento woman was arrested for loitering with intent and directly supervising another person involved in prostitution, otherwise known as pimping.

Aside from the gender disparity in who law enforcement targets, there are also stark racial, age and socioeconomic differences between the women and men who were arrested.

Sixty percent of the arrested men were white and all had home addresses. Their average age was 50.

Of the 28 women arrested, 64 percent were black. More than half the women had “general delivery” listed as their home address, which often, but not always, indicates homelessness. Their average age was under 25, with the youngest woman born in 2000. One of the women appeared on a website for missing persons. Another was an aspiring actress. Public social media accounts showed others struggling to make ends meet or care for children.

DiAngelo, who says she’s been alarmed at the exploding numbers of young, homeless sex workers living along the river and sharing stories of rape, challenged authorities to focus on apprehending violent predators and actual traffickers instead of the workers she says are struggling to survive.

“There’s real stuff going on,” she said. “There’s real people being hurt. But they’re so busy playing these goddamn games.”