Under Cover, Under Arrest--Part III

The last few weeks, WTOC has gone along with police as they crack down on prostitutes and the people who use their services. Many people don't think prostitution is that big of a problem in Savannah, but it really is. And it's not just in certain areas. It's in the middle of neighborhoods.

We've been with police as they show us how deep the prostitution problem is. But, we've also been going out on our own with a hidden camera, and we even had a close encounter with a prostitute.

Take a walk down Jefferson Street one night. Chances are, you'll run into a prostitute.

"Here in the hood they are called skeezes," Rick Pryor of Savannah told us.

Pryor is speaking from experience. After 27 years of watching hookers from his porch, each regular has a nickname.

"There's Limpy, and Miss Tubby," he pointed out.

Pryor claims to have seen it all. "I can remember times when there would be five or six skeezes who would form a chorus line across Jefferson Street, stopping traffic."

"There are certain areas that are hotspots, absolutely," said Sgt. David Gay of SCMPD. He has been on prostitute patrol for the last few months, and WTOC has been right along with him.

We watched as undercover officers nabbed two prostitutes in the Jefferson Street area. We also showed you how a cop posing as a prostitute led to the arrest of four johns along Ogeechee Road. And in the process, another woman was handcuffed and taken to jail on prostitution charges.

One night, without the police, our team--Don Logana and Mehmet Caglayan--ventured out on its own to Jefferson Street with a hidden undercover camera. That's when we met Keisha, who approached our vehicle.

Keisha: What are you all doing? Can I talk to you in the car? You all ain't the police, are you?

She hopped in our car.

Keisha: I'm saying look at these hot two honey bunnies. They got to be the police. And I said maybe not.

Mehmet: What are you doing?

Keisha: Just turning corners.

Don: What do you charge?

Keisha: I ain't going to say that. You got to get back here cause I got to touch somebody. Yes indeed.

Keisha claimed to have lost her house in a fire and was trying to support her child, so she hit the streets. It soon became clear we weren't looking for sex.

She was looking for money. She didn't get any.

Keisha continued about her business. And there were many other women like Keisha, hopping into strange cars  only to be back on the street a little while later.

Rick Pryor says Keisha is a regular. But he hasn't seen her--or others--as much lately. "The word's out," he said. "And I've noticed it's quieted down tremendously."

Quiet, but not gone. Like cockroaches, Pryor says prostitution may never go away. "Unfortunately I have both," he said. "I certainly prefer the cockroaches."

Last month, the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department's TRAP unit made 16 arrests. This month, they've already made ten, not including johns.

But get this. We spoke with Sgt. Gay recently, and the crackdown on prostitution seems to have been put on the back burner. The TRAP unit is having its resources focused on a new initiative. Prostitution will be dealt with as needed.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com