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College pal and future neighbor David Franke warned the couple that housing prices in Richmond were on the rise, and by the time Crandall and his wife made it back to the city inthey could only afford property on West Grace Street. However, the harsh reality of West Grace Street soon settled in, and Crandall became fed up with the circus-like atmosphere on his street corners, what you might call a drag dramedy. Neighbors, including Crandall and others with small children, were finding condoms and syringes in their back yards. To combat prostitution, which is on the rise nationally, Crandall has taken matters into his own hands, as have many other neighborhood activists across the country. He mobilized the West Grace Street Association to patrol the area on foot in the wee hours of weekend mornings beginning in May and lobbied for a way to combat cruising johns. As one neighborhood steps up its efforts, the prostitution just seems to shift elsewhere — Chamberlayne Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway are two examples.
Many now suffer daily beatings and sexual exploitation by pimps, or grapple with drugs. Some dress scantily, others for the cold. Some even come from out of state. Richmond police step up enforcement on busy prostitution stroll. A third had worked in Florida and Tennessee. The officers watch for the women who stand out from the usual shoppers and stroller-pushers. The partnership remains unrefined. As in other established strolls, overcoming the mistrust and disinterest of the women presents an obstacle.
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Some prostitutes journey farther to work 23rd. But she also knows that jail looms, the more he sees of her. Most admit their purpose, even discuss their rates and customer preferences.
The concern usually turns into surprise, however, because the officers rarely jail newcomers unless there is a warrant for their arrest or they carry drugs. That community regards 23rd as a place with relatively safe clientele — usually, Latino laborers carrying ready cash — young hookers and, until recently, lax policing. Contact Karl Fischer at Follow him at Twitter.
They prowl the corridor, usually on bicycle, acting as living scarecrows for the shop owners. Most have numerous arrests, usually for prostitution, drugs or property crimes. Sanchez, a former sex-crimes detective, says most prostitutes he meets were abused as children.
Instead, the officers ask if they need help. They felt ignored until Sanchez and Campos arrived in January. She smiled because she knew Sanchez only wanted to chat tonight. They chat with the women, extracting as much information as possible. The officers depend on that enthusiasm to keep their phones ringing.
Intervention works better than incarceration, in other words. But police hope to become points of contact for women in need of mental health, addiction or domestic violence counseling, job programs, halfway houses and help with other problems that draw them to the street. But the one with the green hoodie needed advice. The streetwalkers tend toward late teens or early 20s. Report an error Policies and Standards .
On the prowl
For years prostitution was arguably their top civic gripe. So 23rd, once a backdrop for infrequent sting-and-bust operations, now gets full-time attention from Sanchez and his partner, officer Daniel Campos.
Prostitutes working 23rd generally do not consider themselves victims, at least not victims who require outside help. This horrifies business owners.
Police say old crime management methods no longer fit the need, nor the needs of streetwalkers — often victims themselves. Police have met girls as young as 13 on the popular Richmond strip.
But fear in the eyes seems universal when police pop up. Two of six women stopped during a two-hour stretch Wednesday recently had been arrested in Los Angeles.
I want to be an RN. Word-of-mouth and websites advertising prostitution perpetuate the stroll. Tips drive much of their success in shooing off the sex workers and building criminal cases against the persistent ones.
The exploitation shows more on 23rd than other local strolls because the women are young. More in News. Although 23rd Street has drawn prostitutes for nearly 30 years, it more recently became a prosperous hub for legal merchants, predominantly Latino shop owners serving families. Waving at cars, lifting shirts or just hanging out on the street without doing much can attract attention. I see them. They have amassed more than 50 files so far; records show police stopped 98 prostitution suspects citywide, many repeatedly, during the first seven months of Warnings usually suffice — Sanchez estimates that nine out of 10 never return to 23rd — but a handful become prosecution projects.
So the department now works with Community Violence Solutions, a nonprofit that runs the county rape crisis center, to solidify connections between the women and social services. Mark Gagan, who supervises Sanchez and Campos. Sanchez and Campos catalog the information in dozens of files on individual women.