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As one of the most traveled pedestrian intersections in Wisconsin, the intersection of State Street and Capitol Square is a colorful kaleidoscope of activity. Other times, an air of discomfort, even menace, invades the space, with groups of people hanging out for hours, some drinking in public, aggressively panhandling, urinating and defecating in nearby doorways and alleys, dealing and using drugs — especially crack cocaine and heroin — and engaging in prostitution.
She started sleeping with men for money at 21 and didn't quit until last December, at the age of She remembers walking King Street, back when it used to be Madison's seedy red-light district. Donna - a pseudonym - is not without a sense of pride about how she did her old job. It was a big thrill. But there were plenty of less glamorous aspects to the job.
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She was arrested more times than she can remember. And she was also occasionally beaten up, robbed and threatened. The ways that people go about selling and buying sex in Madison have changed vastly in recent years. As the business has moved online, where it is largely free from law enforcement scrutiny, streetwalkers are less common.
Jim Dexheimer, who he the community patrol team for Madison police's south district.
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The police want to keep it that way, directing the lion's share of their attention to this small part of the problem. The south precinct's community police team last year made a concerted effort to target prostitution in the Badger Road area, one of the city's most persistent red-light districts.
This initiative, says Dexheimer, has greatly curtailed street prostitution, as intended.
But police have done little to address the selling of sex through other channels - escort services, massage parlors, even kept-women arrangements. Their motto seems to be: Out of sight, out of mind.
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Dexheimer says it's clear to him, from reading on websites like Craigslist and Backs, that "there are some horny people in this city looking for connections all the time. Ruth Ann Bauhs was walking down Badger Road in her neighborhood one day this year when a motorist yelled out to her. Bauhs lives on Sequoia Trail in a neighborhood that has constantly fought the stigma of prostitution. And police efforts, until recently, have largely been ineffective. The traditional method of combating prostitution in Madison, says Dexheimer, has been to hold sporadic stings in areas where streetwalkers hang out.
Officers would gather on a deated night and decide whom to go after, prostitutes or johns. The stings would lead to many arrests but did little to curtail the problem. When the cops used a female officer to pose as a prostitute, it was "just too easy," says Dexheimer.
The south side of Madison has long had a disproportionate amount of prostitution. Incity police reports coded incidents of prostitution, 81 of them in the south precinct.
Inthere were city incidents, with 95 in the south precinct. Last year, the precinct ased Officer Jeff Pharo to the Community Police Team to target street prostitution full time. He started monitoring not just the streets, but the websites prostitutes and johns use to communicate.
Both johns and prostitutes post on these sites. Men post reviews of call girls, report scams and women who have cheated them, share their experiences, and seek advice. Photos are totally fake. She does not worth any penny [sic]. Pharo monitored these sites and became familiar with how the trade operates on the street.
He got to know most of the people involved in it and where they hung out - all detailed in a report earlier this year, which was obtained by Isthmus.
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In the report, Pharo describes the methods he used in targeting street prostitution. He gives biographical information on six frequent customers and 16 prolific prostitutes. He also lists addresses where prostitutes and johns are known to meet and apartments where they've been known to have sex.
The purchase will be made, then the prostitute will pour the beer into a large PDQ cup and take it along to drink in the car. Customers of prostitutes, he writes, try to "normalize this behavior as a 'hobby. There are a large of 'Johns' [who] appear to be obsessed with this pursuit and engage in and support other forms of the sex trade.
Pharo's efforts, relates Dexheimer, were much more effective than doing stings. Between June 1,and the end of last year, Pharo helped make 57 arrests: 52 for violating the city's ordinances against soliciting prostitutes or loitering for the purpose of prostitution and five on state charges of prostitution.
Of these, 28 of those busted were male, 29 female. The youngest man arrested was 19, the oldest The youngest woman arrested was 21, the oldest Over time, Pharo noticed a drop in complaints about prostitution in the district.
He also watched as postings about street prostitutes online declined ificantly on USAsexguide. In Julythere were 30 posts about street prostitutes, but by last December, there were only five, with three posts complaining about the lack of street prostitutes. This month, there are no posts about street prostitutes. However, discussion about massage parlors, escorts, strip clubs, rip-offs and the media continue.
Dexheimer says the work done by Pharo - who's now in a different district - was eye-opening for the police department. It was almost 24 hours a day," Dexheimer says. We had kind of stereotyped the problem.
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Badger Road became a thoroughfare for prostitutes for a of reasons, Dexheimer says. It's on the border of the city and town of Madison, and it isn't particularly well lit, creating "a lot of shadows to hide in. Dexheimer credits Pharo's work with greatly curtailing streetwalking, saying cops have on recent occasion driven around for hours looking for streetwalkers without success. But he knows it's only a matter of time before they'll be back.
But as long as the drug trade is happening, it's going to continue to be a problem. Though neighborhood resident Bauhs agrees that police seem to have curtailed prostitution, she continues to see streetwalkers in her neighborhood. She had lost her job and was addicted to crack, which gave her comfort after two of her children died.
Asked who her customers were, she says bluntly: "you. Beth, now 45, says she became friends with many of her customers, who would sometimes take her out to eat and saw her as a person, "not just a whore.
I was what you'd call a polite prostitute. Though Beth admits she sometimes still has sex for money if she runs into an old client, she largely gave up prostitution in after meeting Jan Miyasaki, director of Project Respect, a nonprofit that does outreach to and advocacy for prostitutes in Madison. Miyasaki says women turn to prostitution for a of reasons.
Often they are poor, addicted to drugs, and have a history of sexual and domestic abuse. Miyasaki put Isthmus in contact with four former prostitutes on the condition the paper not publish their real names. Two of them, Donna and Beth, were street prostitutes. A third, "Jill," operated mainly via escort services and the Internet. When Jill was 8 years old, she was sexually assaulted by her friend's father, an event that triggered a lifetime of problems. She didn't get along with her family who wouldn't believe her when she told them about the assault and frequently ran away.
She began doing heroin by the time she was At 17, she was waiting for a bus in Chicago when a stranger talked her into working for him as a prostitute. She began walking the streets. Once, a potential customer kidnapped her, binding her in duct tape, putting a pillowcase over her head and driving her miles away.
I got him to let me go. Shortly afterward, she came to Madison "because I felt it was safer here, and it is. Jill continued to work as a prostitute even after she'd had two Hookers in Madison Wisconsin and quit using drugs. Now 27, Jill quit for good a couple of years ago. A fourth woman Isthmus talked with sold herself in a way that is less well known but, according to Miyasaki, not all that unusual. The woman, "Lisa," was addicted to heroin and a "rock 'n' roll lifestyle.