Ride along with Detroit police special unit's prostitution sting

- Prostitution is a big problem almost everywhere. Detroit is fighting hard for a rebirth and the prostitution crimes in the city aren't helping the matter.

Moreso, many people who don't even live in the city are playing a role in committing the crime. Police say we'd be blown away if we knew how many people drive in from the suburbs looking for sex.

FOX 2's Josh Landon went out for a ride with the special operations unit that is trying to some raise awareness and scare some people straight. You can watch his special report in the video player above, or continue reading below.

FOX 2: "You realize you're killing yourself by selling your body, by doing drugs? You do realize that, right?"

"Yeah," said one prostitute.

The camera was rolling as this John was caught.

"I don't want to talk to you," he said.

FOX 2: "You were trying to pay for sex."

"I don't want to talk to you sir."

FOX 2: "You said $20 for everything, you think that's okay? You think it's okay to do that in the city or anywhere?"

Another suspected John was caught as police track him down and pull him over.

"I feel awful."

Police officer: "Do you feel awful because you got caught or awful for what you did?"

"The whole thing, just being down here and I just want to go home."

Home is where the men busted that night should have gone, but instead they chose to pay a visit to this neighborhood on Detroit's west side and attempt to pay for a prostitute.

"A lot of people come in from the suburbs," said one police officer. "A lot of guys married with families, you get some nice cars out here.

"It's been going on for a long time, and the citizens are getting tired of it. They’ve been calling making complaints. We've been trying to do something about it. You're not going to stop it, but we can let them know, we're out here. Slow it down."

FOX 2 went out with the Special Operations Unit for the Detroit Police Department's 12th Precinct.

"Everybody be safe, make sure you do your job," said the unit leader to his team. "Do like we always do guys. Go out here and do a good job."

This stakeout targeted the johns who roll up in cars looking to pay for sex. Video shows two undercover officers who worked as hookers on the corner.

"You know obviously we put ourselves in harm's way," said an undercover officer. "But overall it will bring the criminal rate down by what we're out here doing."

There is no telling what the unit may run into when they pull a driver over.

"It can get very dangerous," said one police officer. "Some of the cars we've gotten guns out of them.

"They're like the guy next door. It could be your neighbor. It could be your buddy."

"Some of the people who come out here are normal looking, working class," said the undercover officer. "And when I see them, and I'm talking to them, it always crosses my mind, what are you doing out here?"

With that risk comes more danger for the johns as well.

"There are too many diseases out there," said one officer. “There are a couple of girls we know out here that work; one of them is HIV positive.

"These guys are picking her up and taking that home to their families. It's sad."

Sgt. Ahmed Haidar said he hears the same excuses often.

"(They say) 'I was trying to get directions' very often," Haidar said. "A lot of the time it's a john heading downtown to a Tigers game."

In a few hours, the unit caught eight johns in the act on the same corner.

One john tried to plead with police that he had a family.

"I have a family, I am married sir," he said.

On the ride along, johns are picked up from Milford, Shelby Township, and Sterling Heights. Only one of the drivers amongst the flurry of arrests ended up being from Detroit.

"We have a high prostitution area on certain streets in Detroit, so the people that live in the suburbs come to Detroit and kind of generate the crime for us," said a police officer. "I would say a good 80 percent of what we do detain and arrest, we have to deal with in process, there are people from outside of the city."

That only hurts the city making a comeback.

"The downtown is looking great," the officer said. "This area right here will be able to pick up. It's hard when you still have the same thing that's going on. You have the prostitution, you have drugs, you have a pocket of crime."

Keep in mind, if you are caught in the act, it will cost you.

On the first offense, your car will be towed for $1,100.

Second offense - $2,000. Third offense - $2,900. And you could also face up to 90 days in jail with an additional $500 fine.

Last year Detroit police ticketed 1,223 johns related to prostitution. So far this year - that number is at 584.

"Tomorrow, you're going to have the proper paperwork. You're going to go downtown, you're going to pay a fee to get your car back," said a police officer to a john. "You'll also have 14 days to make a court date. You make a court date, and you go in front of the judge. At that point, you can argue to the judge of what happened."

FOX 2 spoke with a transgender prostitute.

"How long have you been working as a prostitute?"

"Since I was 16," she said.

FOX 2: "How old are you now?"

"Thirty-five," she said.

FOX 2: "Why do you think it's okay to sell your body?"

"I didn't say it was okay," she said.

FOX 2: "Why do you do it then?"

"Because I have to live, I have to survive," she said.

FOX 2: "There are other options. Why don't you look at those options?"

"I most definitely have," she said. "Don't think that I haven't."

But she and others cannot resist the deadly temptation.

"It's because of the lifestyle I live," said another prostitute. "Number two, being an addict.

FOX 2: "What kind of drugs do you use?"

"Cocaine," she said.

FOX 2 also spoke with another prostitute who has fallen deep into this lifestyle.

"Drug addiction," she said. 

FOX 2: "How long have you been addicted to drugs?"

"Over a decade."

FOX 2: "How long have you been working as a prostitute?"

"About the same time," she said.

"It is dangerous," said the Transgender prostitute. "You can be killed, you can be hurt. You can OD. It's not always someone killing you, you can kill yourself. I would just say if you have a safe haven, stay where you are."

The Detroit Police Department also conducts similar stings for prostitutes. Each offense could carry a sentence of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
 

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