SPD, FBI team up on Sprague prostitution busts to stop human trafficking

SPD, FBI team up on Sprague prostitution busts to stop human trafficking

On Thursday evening, undercover Spokane Police officers, uniformed cops and members of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force headed out to east Sprague for the third time this spring in an effort to combat human trafficking.

“We’re making an effort to make it significantly more of an obstacle and more difficult for them to victimize persons who are ,” said Spokane Police Captain Brad Arleth.

In Spokane, human trafficking might not look like the stories in national news of children sold into sexual slavery or people carried across borders for labor purposes. Here, it, mostly, manifests itself as prostitution.

“They have some sort of demand on them by a third party to produce x-amount of money a day for them which is really what we’re trying to zero in on,” Arleth said.

Police are careful not to victimize every person who works the streets, as not all of them are there against their will. But SPD’s goal is to talk to everyone.

“What we’re out there doing is two fold- is trying to minimize the demand by targeting the ‘johns’ actively seeking sexual activity from people and then trying to do outreach to the victims,” Arleth said.

Law enforcement stakes out the johns as they pick up prostitutes, and follow them until they’re stopped. When a person is busted, they’re cited for a misdemeanor- which requires a court appearance- and their car is towed. On top of the tow fee, they have to pay a $500 administrative fee, per a city ordinance.

That money, Arleth said, is split between SPD and Lutheran Community Services which partners with officers to connect the men and women who work the streets to resources that provide a way out.

“It is everywhere and we have several cases here locally that highlight that and so we’re just looking for people to be aware of some of those things and know that we’re taking an aggressive stance on helping those victims,” Arleth said.

In three busts over a two-and-a-half month process, 14 people have been cited.