SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The world's oldest profession, prostitution, has been the target of Savannah-Chatham Metro Police for many years. One recent case of a prostitute who is HIV positive has raised a major red flag.
Last week, WTOC went down to Jefferson Street to meet with a police officer but had an unexpected guest. A woman stopped me to ask what we were doing. I told her a story on prostitution. She said, "I'm a prostitute, just out of prison, and back on the streets."
Our cameras were rolling as she explained why she does it, how she ended up in Savannah, why no one will help her, and the whole time the plain clothed officer was there. She had no idea, especially when she appeared to solicit me.
The woman, who said her name was Rhonda, asked me for $10, then offered to go into my pants to see for herself.
"I'm a prostitute. The only way to make money in Savannah is to be a prostitute or a drug dealer. Other than that, you ain't going to live in Savannah," Rhonda said.
Sgt. Keith Edwards, and plenty of others, would say her statement is wrong. Rhonda had no idea Edwards is a Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Officer speaking to WTOC about prostitution and the risks of spreading HIV.
Rhonda said she knew her HIV status, which was negative, and gets tested every three months.
Last week, Sonya Gadson was indicted on charges of prostitution and reckless conduct for not disclosing her HIV positive status to clients. Rhonda claims she knows Gadson.
"She should have told people her status. That way, things wouldn't happen the way they happened," she said.
The conversation continued as I asked her why she chooses to be a prostitute rather than get a legal job.
"Ain't no jobs out here. They don't want to hire people. So, easy money comes. Get that money and pay your bills. Buy your food. Buy your clothes," Rhonda said.
A we interviewed Edwards, Rhonda was over his shoulder, about 20 feet away, signaling to cars and apparently soliciting motorists.
"That is the only way she wants to make money," Edwards told WTOC.
Edwards says too many dangers exist beneath the surface of prostitution, from drug abuse and activity to the disease aspect and deadly violence.
Rhonda wasn't done yet, and she crashed WTOC's interview with Edwards. First, she asked him for money to get a two piece meal at Church's Chicken.
He said no.
"Department of Labor is giving no jobs. McDonald's, Burger King ain't hiring. The only thing left for a woman to do in Savannah is sell their body," Rhonda said. "Prostitution ain't nothing bad. It happened long time ago. It happened in Jesus Christ's time."
Rhonda and Edwards engaged in a 30 minute debate on programs and agencies available to help Rhonda, and others in her situation.
"What do you got to offer me? Nothing but the streets again," she said. "I need help. What are y'all going to do to help?"
I asked her what she is going to do to help herself.
"Prostituting," she said.
The message we tried to get through to her was she has to help herself, and not rely on everyone else, and especially illegal activity which could end up with her hurt or dead.
"I'm not going to do it," she said.
And with that, Rhonda walked away. Edwards hopes he doesn't see her again but he has a feeling he will.
You may be asking why Sgt. Edwards didn't make an arrest right there. He says it takes a little more than just saying you are a prostitute to make a case but he will be keeping his eye on Rhonda.
There are other Rhonda's out there in danger of not only disease, but being raped, robbed, hurt or killed. Those same dangers exist for the officers trying to stop them.