The Star-News


Keeping the streets safe from 'dates'

Sat, Dec 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

In the early 80s Chula Vista was beset with a problem of street prostitutes. They worked from the 200 to the 1100 blocks of Broadway.
Law-abiding females couldn’t walk these blocks day or night without cars slowing down, the drivers staring at them, often asking, “Are you dating?” the code phrase for “working as a hooker.” Men seeking prostitutes knew where to look.
I worked an undercover detail then that was a mixture of everything. Tom Schaefer and I did lengthy surveillances, bought stolen property, and assisted serving search warrants. We worked the prostitutes as time permitted.
Schaefer and I arrested as many girls as we could. Due to disguises and fake accents and the ability to use a stable of different used vehicles from local car dealers, I even arrested a couple of them more than once. (Show biz is my life.) No one ever said the girls were smart.
With only two of us working undercover, our next tact was to use policewomen as decoys and attack the problem from another angle, that of arresting the men who patronize prostitutes. We were equal opportunity cops.
One Friday night a television film crew came along with us on the decoy program, against Tom Schaefer’s wishes. He was afraid the report would scare the men away. Friday night we bagged 14 men. The film segment ran. Saturday night we arrested 15. When the male customers saw our policewomen-hookers they were like salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Nothing would have stopped them.
One problem is that our policewomen were too good looking, too wholesome and healthy appearing, and too clean to be street hookers. Most of the real hookers wore cheap mini skirts and skimpy tops. If they looked attractive when you were driving down the street, that illusion was dashed when they approached the car. Most were very rough looking, had bad teeth, and didn’t pass the smell test if they got into your car.
When we arrested the male customers and it didn’t deter the hookers or the men, we used a different plan. We would have the beat cop on Broadway pick out a hooker and shadow her, driving very slowly alongside her, emergency lights on. The girl would get mad, often cursing the cop while telling him she was just trying to make a living.
The cop would say, “You’re not going to make a living here tonight. Why don’t you try National City? I heard it’s very nice this time of year.”
The girls would get angry, but the cop would continue to drive alongside until she went to her motel, or wherever she stayed. Then the officer would find another and do the same. One cop even did something that would not be approved by the ACLU, (All Criminals Love Us) and probably not even by the CVPD administration. But, he did it anyway.
He would stop a hooker. While running a warrant check on her he would have her empty her pockets and/or purse on the hood of his car. Most self-respecting hookers would have at least half a dozen condoms. The officer would remove his badge and use the pin point to poke holes in all of the condoms. If the girls had complained, the cop would have gotten in trouble. But, none complained. That guy ended up becoming a lieutenant.
I don’t traverse Broadway too often, but when I do, I haven’t seen a hooker in years. I asked Special Investigations Sergeant Mike Walden if Chula Vista has a street hooker problem now. He said the only time the girls surface is if San Diego PD puts on a push and drives them south. The Special Investigation Unit does some prostitute enforcement, but it involves outcall massages and other high tech forms of the crime.
Sleep well, Chula Vista. Your police are out there chasing real crooks, although I’ve never met a street hooker who wasn’t into some other kind of crime.
Basinski is a retired police officer and a novelist.


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