Late last month, New Haven police officers made a flurry of arrests of prostitutes working in the Elm City.
Officers from the New Haven Police Department Narcotics and Criminal Intelligence Units carried out a sting operation which resulted in the arrests of 14 New Haven women. Police carried out the sting in the wake of a surge in prostitution-related complaints from residents, according to an Oct. 26 NHPD press release. The NHPD conducted the stings in Fair Haven, which is east of campus past Wooster Square, and in the Dwight-Kensington neighborhood, which is directly west of campus. These were the areas from which the NHPD received the most prostitution-related complaints, per the press release.
“People want their neighborhoods back, and we will do everything possible to make that happen,” Detective Lieutenant Herbert Johnson said in a statement.
Concerned residents had been reporting incidents of illegal sex trafficking at higher rates than usual. Those complaints provided officers with the information to conduct the late-October operation.
Prostitution is “indirectly connected” to other crimes such as drug distribution, robbery and trespassing, the release said. Sex workers are also often raped, abused and assaulted by their clients, but do not report such incidents for fear of facing criminal charges.
Defeating prostitution in New Haven requires not only arresting offenders but preventing illegal sex trafficking in the first place, according to the release.
“We are hopeful that those arrested will avail themselves of social services available through the courts,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to keep arresting the same people.”
City government was not very involved in the planning or execution of the sting, according to city spokesman Laurence Grotheer. But he said the mayor has expressed concern about providing social services to prostitutes.
Three Yale students, when asked what they thought about the sting, expressed concern with the way the NHPD had conducted it. Alessandra Sanchez GRD ’17, a global affairs masters student taking a class on human trafficking, said targeting individual women does not strike at the root of the problem. Instead, the NHPD should be going after the “Johns,” the solicitors of the prostitutes, Sanchez said.
The NHPD seems to be moving in this direction. According to the October release, future stings will focus more on identifying and stopping Johns. The final words of the press release offered a stern warning in bold: “Johns … You’re next!”
This sting was also the first in a series of several upcoming operations, the release said. But it remains to be seen if future operations will differ from this one, and if so, how.
Many residents lodged complaints because prostitutes in their neighborhoods were highly visible, operating in places where Elm City children could see them, the release said.
But Liam Appelson ’19 said the presence of these women in the community should be a lesson on urban realities, rather than an issue to be “swept under the rug.”
“I went to a school in a district where prostitution was very apparent,” Appelson said, noting that he regularly saw prostitutes working on corners from the windows of his high school bus. “More than anything, that drove me to realize that people really do need help out there.”
Sanchez said that if she were a mother in the community, she would not try to hide prostitution from her children. Instead, she would explain to her kids what circumstances may have brought those women into the work.