Businesses say there's a prostitution problem near Broadway and Central Streets in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Dan Ellsworth manages Ebco, a rubber-product business near Central Street. He loves the area -

"There's some wonderful people that live in the neighborhoods here, the businesses. Everybody has worked together and invested a lot of money in improving the community and bringing jobs to the area," said Ellsworth.

But he said a big problem still exists:

"We have prostitutes that are constantly trying to work this corner, walking up and down the street. And then along with that, the problem we've had is even employees that work here and walk - they live in the neighborhoods here - they're getting harassed by men pulling over and trying to pick them up because they think they may be prostitutes because it's been going on so much in this area," said Ellsworth.

Ellsworth said he can see the prostitutes on his surveillance system - and said finding used condoms on the ground isn't uncommon.

"From a health standpoint it's not good. From a safety standpoint it's not good. And it's not good for business," said Ellsworth.

Ellsworth isn't the only businessman who notices the issue.

"I see people - ladies - walking up and down the street every day. Sometimes I even see them getting picked up or dropped off in my side parking lot," said Cody Haynes, with Broadway Restaurant Equipment.

Many are trying to stop the cycle.

"We've contacted the police multiple times. The neighborhood - several of the residents that live nearby here - have put together a petition that the businesses and residents have signed. What we really want is to get a much larger police presence in the area to crack down on this," said Ellsworth.

KPD arrested 19 people in an undercover prostitution sting over the weekend, and they said more stings are coming.

"It'll be better for business. It'll be better for the area because you talk to people and they know that this area has a problem for that. It'll just all together give the community a better name around town," said Haynes.


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