Vice Squad
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Arizona Prostitution Update

Last November Vice Squad reported on a prostitution sting in Maricopa County, Arizona -- a sting that seemed to me to be more about generating publicity than about promoting public safety. (The November operation was part of a larger sting effort that was initiated in September.) Members of the media were embedded in the operation so that good footage would be forthcoming, and the arrested were taken to the parking lot of a shopping mall to be processed. Lots of media happened to be at that parking lot, too, coincidentally. Some 400 officers were involved in the stings, and their presence was supplemented by volunteers. A Vice Squad post in January relayed the Maricopa County sheriff's defense of the tactics in the sting -- he allowed some of Maricopa's finest to disrobe and to engage in some touching of alleged prostitutes.

Today we learn from the Arizona Republic that county prosecutors don't have the stomach to go forward with criminal charges:
About 60 people arrested last year in a prostitution sting will not be criminally charged because Maricopa County sheriff's deputies used tactics including nudity and sexual contact in their undercover operations, county prosecutors announced Tuesday.

County prosecutors believe the two-month sting, which targeted prostitution suspects and men accused of soliciting sex for money, was botched by sheriff's officials who allowed undercover deputies and Sheriff's Posse members to remove their clothing and engage in sex acts on videotape.
Of course, the sheriff of Maricopa County now hopes that the feds will take up the prosecution, though in the absence of a federal law against prostitution, he might have his work cut out for him. At least he won't have any trouble getting volunteers for his future posses, given the activities that posse members can engage in.

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