The Salt Lake County sheriff's office has teamed up with Salt Lake police in cracking down on prostitution along south State Street.
And Sheriff Pete Hayward has made it clear that police officers will be able to book women suspected of soliciting sex into jail.Overcrowding in the Salt Lake County Jail last year forced Hayward to stop accepting certain misdemeanor offenders. Many jail personnel interpreted that as meaning no prostitutes, since soliciting sex is only a misdemeanor.
But Hayward said this week he has instructed his jail officers to accept female prostitution suspects.
The sheriff's vice unit joined the police vice squad after receiving complaints from businesses between 13th South and 17th South.
The assistant manager of one of those businesses, Parts Master, 1350 S. State, said she believes the police weren't doing an adequate job.
"Sometimes we'll have as many as eight girls working on the sidewalk out front," said Jane Herlitz. "Their customers block our driveway and disrupt our business. Some of our customers have even been propositioned."
Herlitz said she really got angry when the prostitutes and clients were performing sexual acts in the parking lot.
So she called the sheriff's office.
"We sent in a team and found the girls are working the streets pretty heavily down there," said sheriff's vice Sgt. Jay Labrum.
Police vice squad Lt. Roger Kinnersley said the police vice squad is understaffed and welcomes the sheriff's assistance. "I would be an idiot to refuse their help. I've told (vice squad Sgt.) Dana Orgill to loan them our cars and give them back up and support any time they need it."
Kinnersley said his 4-man team of vice officers cannot work all day every day.
When they do work, however, they can arrest up to 10 different girls during an 8-hour shift.
The sheriff's office vice squad will add some "new faces" to the undercover efforts, as many prostitutes recognize the city vice cops.
The lieutenant said he's glad the sheriff's office will be accepting prostitutes again so that officers won't just have to cite the girls and let them go.
"It only makes sense. They don't stop doing it just because they get a ticket."