SALT LAKE CITY — Six people were arrested on State Street Thursday during a prostitution sting by undercover Salt Lake police detectives.
For about four hours Thursday night, detectives from the department's Organized Crime Unit, walked along the 1500 South block of State Street posing as prostitutes.
"It is an active area of town for prostitutes. We do make arrests regularly," said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson.
Officers did not have statistics available Friday about how many arrests had been made in the area prior to Friday. But Josephson said when operations like this are conducted, it is generally because of complaints from residents and business owners in the neighborhood.
He said the message the department wants to send to prospective "Johns" is: "(If you) come downtown to pick up a prostitute, you'll likely be going to jail, and you'll have to explain why your car is impounded."
Contrary to what some might think, prostitution is not a victimless crime, Josephson said. In many cases, the women are forced into prostitution because of a debt from a drug problem.
"The majority of them are involved in drugs in one form or another. So they need to do this in order to get that fix for the day," he said. "When it comes to prostitution, we would like to get these girls the help to get out of the business, because it's just not a good business for a lot of reasons, including their safety."
As for Johns or the customers, Josephson said the risk for them is contracting a disease and spreading it to an unsuspecting person later, possibly a spouse.
The police department's vice squad was disbanded about a year and a half ago. It was not clear Friday when the new Organized Crime Unit resumed prostitution sting operations, but Josephson said they were regular.
The five men and one woman arrested Thursday ranged in age from 27 to 50. Two of them were also arrested for investigation of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia. One man was previously convicted of sexual solicitation in 2011, another was convicted of drug-related charges in 2012 and 2007. One of the men was convicted of assault causing serious bodily harm and domestic violence in 2010.