Sex solicitation sweep leads to arrests of 40 men in 4 city neighborhoods

April 14, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The driver of a sparkling new Toyota Avalon pulled over on Eutaw Street and talked with Loretta Young, a small, young woman dressed in green Spandex tights and a windbreaker.

Within minutes, Baltimore police officers swarmed the car and arrested the driver, a salesman for a Toyota dealership.

"I didn't give her anything," the 29-year-old man pleaded.

"You don't have to give her anything," replied Sgt. Craig Gentile, as he handcuffed his suspect. "She's an undercover police officer. Any questions?"

Officer Young charged the man with offering her $10 for sex. He was one of 40 men arrested Thursday and Friday nights in a sweep through four Baltimore neighborhoods -- Druid Heights, Midtown, Madison Park and Mount Vernon.

Female police officers posing as prostitutes walked various corners and signaled to backup officers when an illegal solicitation had been offered. The neighborhoods were chosen by the high number of complaints from residents.

"These people are fed up with you people coming up here and picking up prostitutes," Lt. John Bailey told one suspect who balked. "This is not ridiculous."

The sweeps have another benefit. A recent police action to rid North Calvert Street of prostitutes sparked a 70 percent drop in street crime, the officers said.

Police were back on Calvert Street on Friday night and made three arrests in front of the Baltimore Sun building, an area known for transvestite prostitution.

One man arrested there was on his way home with two pizzas. "I'm single these days, and I was going home," he told the officers. "Being by myself gets old."

Most of the men who were arrested asked the same questions: Will my wife find out? What happens to the car? Whether the wife finds out depends. The car usually is towed.

Those busted live in the city and suburbs. The maximum penalty each faces is a $5,000 fine and a year in jail, but most typically receive a fine well under the maximum. And most said this was the first time they had tried to pick up a street walker.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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