MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Memphis Police Department has been cracking down on prostitution, but some advocates wonder if the sting operations are solving any problems.
Over the past three years (2014-16), the MPD has made more than 1,000 arrests for prostitution, according to the TBI.
The MPD made just nine arrests for ‘purchasing prostitution’ during that time. Advocates said that disparity is a problem.
“In any commercial industry, there is a product because there is a buyer. So it is supply and demand,” said Rachel Sumner Haaga, Director of Restore Corps.
The demand is often harder to spot though.
“Going after buyers is a lot more resources. It's a lot more surveillance,” said Haaga. “A good pimp, not only is he not seen. He does not leave a paper trail.”
Haaga said she understands the Memphis police have to make arrests when they see a crime like prostitution, but she said that often times the so-called criminals are really victims.
“It’s poverty. It's addiction. It's prior abuse that leads to a victimization that now they find themselves in this industry.”
Haaga said recent efforts by the TBI to nail buyers is a start.
She also believes society has to change the conversation around the crime, from judgment to empathy.
“[It’s wrong] for people to just call them prostitutes because that is not their identity. Their identity is mothers and sisters and friends and aunties and daughters. Those should be their labels first,” she said.
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