Are Knoxville Prostitution Stings Really Working?

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(WVLT) - Business owners along Magnolia Avenue are applauding Knoxville Police efforts to crack down on prostitution.

Authorities arrested about a dozen people during a sting operation early Tuesday morning.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe took a look at how widespread the problem is in the area.

Police say they are doing their part, but the penalties are not tough enough.

They say those arrested are often repeat offenders, who are right back out on the street.

While our crews were with him, Knoxville policeman Sammy Rivera spotted a known prostitute on Magnolia Avenue.

"At Depot and Central, we've got a 10-90 female, possibly soliciting," Rivera called in to central dispatch.

Rivera, a 20-year-veteran cop, stopped to see if she's working the streets.

The woman says she was arrested two months ago for prostitution.

This time, there's no proof she's soliciting.

One area business owner, who doesn't want to go on camera, says the illegal sex trade hurts business.

"We want to have a business where they feel safe and when they see that going on they may not feel very comfortable, especially women with children."

Police say prostitution creates other undesirable problems.

"People know that prostitutes do bring along alcohol, drugs and violence, potentially violence with guns," says Lt. Jerry Armstrong with the Knoxville Police Department.

Of the eleven people arrested in Tuesday's sting, more than half are repeat offenders.

"It's just the same thing over and over again, the same people," says Rivera.

Officer Rivera says the penalties are not tough enough.

A 45 year-old confessed prostitute told Volunteer TV that she started giving sex for money to support a drug habit about 15 years ago, but now only does it part time for financial reasons.

"I'm on disability, it's not enough to get by. Honestly, i need gas in my car, i need cigarettes," she told us.

She says making prostitution legal would help clean up the trade.

Authorities say once they make arrests in a prostitution sting, the illegal sex activity just moves to another location.

And, they say it's tough to get convictions.

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