CMPD Fights Prostitution with Technology

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Some call it the world’s oldest profession, or a victimless crime, but the officers in CMPD’s Westover Division are serious about slowing down prostitution in the Queen City.

We talk with undercover investigators about how they are using technology to get ahead of the game.

“No matter how many times you do it, it’s nerve wracking every single time. You never know what’s on the other side of that door,” says an undercover officer.

Prostitution, human trafficking, drugs, robbery, and assault. These are all things we don’t want on our streets, in our neighborhoods, or in our cities.

CMPD’s Westover Division is combating this type of crime using technology. Investigators use web sites like Backpage.com, targeting ads for escorts in their division, and setting up undercover operations.

“You can narrow it down to where we want to focus. Which our focus is usually Woodlawn Road, Clanton Road, and sometimes Billy Graham,” says undercover officer #1.

The ads lure clients to hotel rooms, especially near the airport. It’s a lucrative business.

“The gain far outweighs the risk. So they’re more than willing to take the risk every day,” says undercover officer #2.

The women charge rates from $20 for a few minutes, to hundreds of dollars an hour. The penalties are light in comparison.

“They get processed, they’re right back out. Put the ad right back on, and get right back up to business again,” says undercover officer #2.

But these officers stay at it, setting up stings whenever they can.

It’s about more than just stopping prostitution. The sex trade is tied to numerous other crimes.

“Nine times out of ten, that you encounter some type of narcotics in the room, whether it be actually in plain sight, or offered by the female for sale,” says undercover officer #2.

“We’ve done some cases where it’s obvious that the girl is, I guess, being moved around by a pimp from state to state,” says undercover officer #1.

But many of the women are locals. That helps make a tough job more than worth it when things go right.

“We’ve had several cases where we’ve had young females reunited with family members that have been kind of, not so much kidnapped, but kind of coerced to do this type of activity,” says officer #2. “So to get them back to their family is good.”

The officers tell WCCB Charlotte that up to 90 percent of the women in the local sex trade come from Charlotte and surrounding counties.