Helping hookers get unhooked Prostitution in Laurel: To curb repeat arrests, police trying a comprehensive approach.

December 03, 1997

AS ANY VICE DETECTIVE can testify, most roadside prostitutes are out looking for "johns" because they need money for a "hit" of narcotics or alcohol. In fact, those women are often so desperate that prices for their services are directly related to what they need in order to get high. That's why "hookers" are likely to show up again and again at their "work place" corners, regardless of how many times they are arrested.

Anne Arundel County police are trying a new tack. Instead of simply arresting prostitutes working near the boundary of Anne Arundel and Howard counties in Laurel, they offer them a combination of drug and alcohol treatment, housing and job training. This approach melds law enforcement with efforts of the county health department, shelters and courts.

We welcome this approach. For years, police have identified the Laurel stretch as a solicitation area for prostitution. Officers have arrested dozens of hookers, often catching repeat offenders. As for the prostitutes' clients, they have ranged from teen-agers to men in their 70s. Most have had Howard or Anne Arundel addresses, but there has been a fair share of out-of-staters. One man apprehended in a stakeout listed Dublin, Ireland as his home.

By bringing the health department and social service agencies into the picture, police ought to be able to give arrested prostitutes the help they need to break out of their destructive cycle. Although many of the prostitutes are chronic drug users, they are not routinely tested for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Ironically, men convicted of soliciting a prostitute are required to take an AIDS test.

Under the new program, women appearing in the drug court who plead guilty to drug or prostitution charges and then complete substance-abuse counseling may receive a suspended sentence or probation if they are successful with treatments. Counseling is to continue for a year after sentencing.

Prostitution is an age-old problem. It is not restricted to one stretch in Laurel, nor is it limited to females with substance-abuse problems. But craving for drugs undeniably forces many women to prostitution. If this approach by police can help at least some women overcome their addiction, they will be less likely to sell themselves on the street.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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