The Investigators

Nov 11, 2013 1:00 PM by Tom McNamara

TPD cracking down on Tucson's Sex Web

The world's oldest profession now runs on the newest technology.

In Tucson and everywhere, prostitution is shifting from a dark street corner, to a shadowy spot in the cyber-world.

This year, Tucson Police have busted nearly one-hundred suspected prostitutes. Some they got near downtown, the Tucson International Airport, and beyond.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to learn more about the growing number of prostitutes and pimps who use computers and smart phones to catch-up with clients, trap young new victims into their trade, and avoid being caught themselves.

Beth Jacobs is a former prostitute who has seen how her former industry has turned to technology to recruit clients and new victims. Often those victims are teens and young people.

"The pimps can come right into their bedroom now. As they're on the Internet, you know, talking, you know, in chat rooms or whatever, the pimps are approaching these young people, and they're saying 'hey baby, I'm your age and I'm your boyfriend, or, I'm your girlfriend, because women can be pimps too. They have access to our children," Jacobs says.

Jacobs now dedicates her time to keeping teens and adults away from the harms and dangers of prostitution through her non-profit called Willow Way.

She warns parents to monitor their child's online use so their life won't be ruined by a pimp's lies spoken in Cyberspace.

"It's just the whole lure, and the 'I love you'. You know, they look for what somebody's missing in their life, and that's how they approach them," Jacobs says.

As Jacobs is fighting prostitution on the victims' front, Tucson Police are battling the problem on another level.

Captain Clayton Kidd with TPD's Special Investigations Division says same technology that recruits new prostitutes is also used to lure new clients.

"I think it's a big issue, and, it is on our radar. Like everything else in our society, technology has taken over," Kidd says.

Kidd tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, even though it's clearly visible, for those who seek it out online, fighting online prostitution is not easy.

"Nowadays, we look at it a little different than we did, say, ten years ago, when prostitution was really something you'd strictly find on the street, or a street-corner prostitute. While we still have those issues, they're not as prominent anymore, as we find with prostitution on networking advertising sites like backpage," Kidd says.

Kidd also says ads like those on backpage allow prostitutes to work under the radar; quietly setting up meetings with clients here in Tucson. That happens before the prostitute even arrives in town.

"You get to that city, and you check into your hotel room, and you've got clients lined up all day long. You provide the services to the client, you collect your money, you pack your stuff up, and then you head to the next city," Kidd says.

Kidd's unit fights back with sting operations, going online, to set-up meetings with prostitutes who advertise on backpage, and then busting them.

Kidd says the clients who answer online ads sometimes walk into traps.

"A lot of times, the girl will set up in a hotel room; she'll run her ad for services. The male will come to receive the services, and then gets robbed while he's there," Kidd says.

Needless to say, the client's, or ‘Johns', are risking more than arrest. Hooking-up with a hooker on the Internet, just like on the streets, still exposes them to physical harm, sexually transmitted diseases, and a ruined life.

"Actually, I went to jail. That's how I was able to get out. I went to jail, and that's what separated me from the people who were watching me. And from there, I just never went back. I was able to not go back, because they didn't know when I got out," Jacobs says.

Kidd says Tucson Police will continue busting prostitutes, and Johns, during future stings. We'll keep you updated.

If you have something you would like us to investigate, email the News 4 Tucson Investigators at investigators@kvoa.com You may also call our News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.

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