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Indianapolis Already Prepping for Super Bowl Prostie Surge

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Indianapolis – from www.indystar.com – As Super Bowl XLVI draws huge crowds and international attention to Indianapolis, city officials and police will keep their eyes on a seedier side of the game that could bring hundreds of prostitutes to town.

Some will come in from other cities and advertise themselves on websites as “escorts” offering massages and other services. Police are issuing a warning: That next client you visit in Indianapolis just might be a cop.

Last week, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Code Enforcement used the crowds visiting for the Brickyard 400 to set up a sting of unlicensed escorts as practice for more enforcement efforts leading up to the Super Bowl.

“There will be more prostitutes here than this city can handle,” said Lt. Richard Kivett, commander of IMPD’s vice unit. “They will flood in here.”

Kivett knows his nine-officer vice unit is outmanned when it comes to enforcing the city’s prostitution ordinances. Teaming up with the Department of Code Enforcement, the city licensing agency, makes a lot of sense, he said.

“Most of them get more from that ticket than they do in criminal court,” Kivett said.

Arrest a hooker, and she will face a night in jail and, in some cases, a small fine. But write her a ticket, and she’ll face a fine of up to $2,500 and a court order to find a new line of work.

City Prosecutor Helen Marchal said the fines are up to $7,500 for repeat offenders. The typical fine is about $500.

“With the civil case, you really hurt them by dipping into their pocketbooks,” Marchal said. “If the arrest doesn’t act as a deterrent, maybe the fine will.”

A city ordinance requires escorts to get a license. An escort license is $103 for a person. Licensed escorts also must work for a city-approved escort agency, which needs a separate license that costs $319.

Because the city has no licensed escorts, Code Enforcement administrator Adam Collins said, any working in Indianapolis are violating the ordinance.

Police have the authority to write a ticket for the ordinance violation whenever they make an arrest, but Thursday they teamed with Code Enforcement agents and three metropolitan-area hotels to conduct stings.

“The Super Bowl is a huge event that has a large impact on Downtown,” Collins said. “Doing these stings in conjunction with IMPD is something that neighborhoods benefit from on a daily basis.”

Although homicides and other violent crimes make headlines, Collins said, prostitution is one of the biggest complaints from many neighborhood groups.

The sting operations take a lot of time and advance planning. Each requires a bait officer and several backup officers, a couple of hotel rooms and a search of websites for target escorts.

Each “date” takes hours to set up. The officer uses a false name to set up a meeting with an escort, then waits. Sometimes, the escorts arrive late or don’t show up.

On Thursday, police operating from the three area hotels arrested four people on prostitution charges, and enforcement agents issued each of them tickets for not having an escort license. A fifth person refused to perform a sex act on the undercover officer and was only issued a ticket.

Three alleged escorts were women and two were men.

Police in North Texas spent more than a year preparing for last February’s Super Bowl, Arlington (Texas) Police Lt. Jerry Hataway said. They conducted a massive public education campaign that included billboards warning prostitutes and clients that Texas police would be watching for them.

“It’s a crime against women and children,” said Hataway, commander of Arlington’s vice and narcotics units. “It’s more than just a misdemeanor offense. A lot of these women, even if they first went into this kind of work on their own initiative, it’s turned into trafficking where they are enslaved to the people running the business.”

Hataway said estimates before the game were “way overblown” in suggesting they might see tens of thousands of prostitutes during the game. The North Texas area has about 300 escorts advertising their services on any given day. Hataway knows more came to town during the Super Bowl but had no clue how many. Six of the 59 arrested in the two weeks before the game were from out of town, he said.

But the enforcement had a strong deterrent effect when prostitutes who got caught issued warnings to others in their profession, Hataway said.

“We found Internet postings all over these sites warning these girls ‘Do not come to Arlington. You will be arrested,’ ” Hataway said. “We were very happy when we started seeing that.”

IMPD Deputy Chief Mike Bates said federal authorities and State Police will assist in the efforts to stop prostitution and the human trafficking that is often associated with it. He said the nine-officer vice unit will see reinforcements in the weeks before the big game.

The Super Bowl “is nothing like anything we’ve ever experienced here,” said Bates, who attended the past two football championship games in Texas and Miami. “We think the (Indianapolis) 500 is big, but it pales in comparison to the Super Bowl.”

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