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Hookers New Hot Spots in NYC

NY- Lingering around the shadowy base of the Queensboro Bridge, a cluster of young women smile at men stepping off buses and leering from inside idling cars.

Before the sun rises, the prostitutes, some in their late teens, will make handfuls of cash on the streets of Long Island City, selling oral sex for $50 and intercourse for twice as much.

More than a year has passed since cops completed a massive sting operation that targeted streetwalkers around Queens Plaza, smashing a lucrative sex ring by arresting pimps who recruited girls as young as 12.

But hooker hot spots still exist in the city, with desolate neighborhoods, including Long Island City, causing the most problems.

“Women sell sex, and sex is going to sell till the end of time. There’s nothing they can do to stop that, or to stop me,” said a 19-year-old prostitute who calls herself Cherokee.

Wearing black jeans, an oversized black suede jacket and an “I love Jesus” bracelet, Cherokee began hustling on 27th St. near Queens Plaza South at 8:30 p.m. Friday. By 3:30 a.m., she had made $700.

“I know there are cops around here, but the money’s here,” she said. “A lot of it.”

While prostitution arrests have dropped across most of the city in recent years, busts in Queens increased, according to data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Queens hooker arrests jumped to 728 from 477 – nearly 53% – between 2002 and 2004, the data reveal.

At the same time, arrests in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx declined. Though Staten Island saw an increase in busts – to 20 from 11 – the number of cases remained small.

Law enforcement officials said the rising arrests in Queens aren’t proof of a growing problem. They suggest the busts spiked because of a widespread crackdown that included the Queens Plaza arrests.

The aggressive tactics included using undercover detectives, targeting specific pimps and creating a database to match prostitutes with their pimps.

“Our enforcement efforts proved successful,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “Prostitution-related crimes dropped dramatically, and the pimps were not only receiving longer prison terms but experiencing a significant monetary loss of their illegal gains.”

But no one suggests the city can be completely rid of the world’s oldest profession.

On a recent night in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a dozen streetwalkers mingled near Washington St., tempting well-dressed bar patrons far from the bright lights of Times Square, where hookers once flagrantly sold their flesh.

“Uptown and Times Square has too many crazies – and too many cops,” said a hooker who called herself Kat Eyes.

The 35-year-old woman has been working the streets since before some of her youngest competitors were born. She says she paid off a $350,000 house in Queens by turning tricks for 17 years.

Experienced prostitutes such as Kat Eyes are increasingly moving off the streets and onto the Internet. As they recruit johns electronically, cops and prosecutors are now seeing younger women working the streets.

“We have seen 13-year-old girls and 14-year-old girls again and again. We definitely think it’s a problem,” said Deborah Cohen, of the Brooklyn district attorney’s sex crimes bureau.

Last year, 150 children younger than 17 were busted for prostitution, including 53 in Queens, authorities said. Comparable stats for previous years weren’t made available despite repeated requests, and the NYPD declined to comment on the state data.

Mayor Bloomberg launched a federally funded program in Queens this year to lock up pimps who exploit kids and create housing and treatment facility to help young prostitutes.

In Brooklyn, the district attorney’s office runs a program called Saving Teens at Risk that gives teen hookers counseling and job training.

But pimps offer their own twisted perks, seducing impoverished girls – many of whom are runaways – with food, shelter and cash, a police source said.

“They say, ‘My man takes care of me. He takes us to Great Adventure if we had a good Friday night,'” the source said. “The dangerous part is they think they’re smart and they’re doing the right thing.”

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