Police: Prostitution in Bakersfield isn’t a victimless crime

| Saturday, May 10 2008 1:25 PM

Last Updated: Saturday, May 10 2008 12:55 PM

Jamie Likewise has scabs on her face, is strung out on drugs and willing to sell her body to anyone with some spare cash.

Hers is a difficult, dangerous life and the years of working the street and the drug use show on her face. She started getting high when she was 12 and was turning tricks when she was 14.

She has four children, and continues to sell herself even though she’s six months pregnant with a fifth. Added to that mix is a boyfriend who frequently beats her.

“Pretty Woman” it’s not.

Now 28, Likewise doesn’t see much hope of her life ever improving. She’s fairly typical of prostitutes in the city.

HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM?

Bakersfield police can’t say exactly how big of a problem prostitution is in Bakersfield, but in the past three years or so they have almost doubled the number of arrests.

Part of the problem is that it’s tough to come up with accurate statistics for how many prostitutes are in town, police say. That’s because some arrive only for a short time and then move on to another city.

Police Sgt. Glen Grundeis says there are a couple dozen that police regularly find on the streets.

Most tend to hang out along Union Avenue, sometimes as far south as East Belle Terrace, and on Baker Street, police said.

Police are cagey about revealing how many officers they have on the streets fighting prostitution. They don’t want the prostitutes or johns to know their numbers, Grundeis said.

Police say they regularly conduct stings to nab prostitutes and, less often, would-be johns.

Officers and deputies will pose as johns or prostitutes to catch suspects. They’ve made 83 arrests this year, through April. Those numbers include both prostitutes and johns.

TRICKING AT 10 A.M.

Autumn Harrington has spent the past 10 years as a prostitute. Originally from Oklahoma, she now works along Union Avenue and a few streets in Oildale and spends her money getting high off meth.

Her face is weathered and she looks far older than her 24 years. She’d like to do something else with her life, but she doesn’t know what.

Harrington and Likewise were arrested in late April.

The women talked briefly about why they began selling their bodies. There was one common factor to their stories — drugs.

“When you’re on crack or coke or anything, all you care about is the next hit,” Likewise said.

After getting hooked on crack cocaine as a teen, Likewise started walking the streets and giving sexual favors in return for money to support her habit. She said some weeks she earns $600 and she decides on a case by case basis how much to charge each john, her price dictated mostly by what they’re asking for.

She and Likewise both said they are convicted felons and finding a normal 9 to 5 job is just too hard.

In their world, there’s no such thing as “regular” hours. Prostitution goes on from early in the morning to the dead of night.

Their lifestyle constantly puts them at risk to violence. An hour after she was interviewed, Likewise was beaten by her boyfriend near where she was arrested and police quickly arrested him.

Trails of blood led from above her eyes down her face as she talked about how taking a beating wasn’t uncommon. She’s also been raped and stabbed while working the streets.

The risk of disease is hardly even an afterthought to Likewise. She doesn’t make johns wear a condom during intercourse. All that matters is money for the next high.

And she doesn’t care who knows it.

CRACKING DOWN

In the past several years the number of prostitution busts have been going up, but police say that doesn’t mean there are more women working the streets.

Instead, the numbers are rising because police have been doing more and more stings. In 2005 there were just seven stings. Last year there were 40. The number of arrests almost doubled in that time span, from 108 in 2005 to 208 in 2007.

Residents in areas where prostitutes hang out will call and complain about them, leading to operations to get them off the streets.

Grundeis said prostitution is far from a victimless crime. It’s tied closely to the sale and abuse of drugs and is often connected with organized crime or street gangs.

Prostitutes are sometimes beaten, raped and even killed by johns, Grundeis said. A man was recently arrested in Kern County for raping at least three prostitutes.

Sometimes the tables are turned and the prostitutes, some of whom carry knives or other weapons, rob or injure johns. Many of those incidents won’t be reported because the johns are too embarrassed.

It’s hard to get the streetwalkers to see how their lives are just going to continue to get worse if they keep doing what they doing, Grundeis said. A teenage prostitute who came to Bakersfield from L.A. told him the money was too good to give it up.

“She said, ‘I make more in two hours than I would in a week of flipping burgers,’” Grundeis said.

http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/440990.html

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6 Comments

  1. Kids are America’s most precious and most at-risk citizens. With drugs and peer pressure facing them on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that mental illness and drug abuse is at an all time high. Problems facing American children.

  2. I am related to Autumn Harrington, I have ful custody of her baby girl, which she left her the day she was born…Autumn lived a poor life with no one really caring about her. Autumn was born with acohol syndrome and she was just pushed aside from her mom and dad…The life Autumn lives now is the life her mom taught her and her dad just left her be, never even caring enough to help her out. So dont blame her, blame the parents. She is a follower and never a leader…I love Autumn and wish she would get clean an off the streets but as long as she is allowed to be that way, thats the way she will remain. Autumn is a few years younger then me and from the age of 8 i knew she would end up living her life with danger

  3. Autumn is my sister and is loved by everyone. Renee, for you to say that is wrong. Me being her little sister did everything I could to help her. I am not on drugs or prostituting myself so I say we were raised right just some people make their own decisions in life and yes she made the wrong one,but dont blame the family. Autumn just need’s to come to her senses and come home to the people that love her and the nephew that would like to know her.

    • What you sister needs is a whole-hearted man to take care of her. A man who would be kind and caring while trying to do a little rehab with. A man who would provide a safe and wholesome environment for her… If interested in this idea, write back

      • She need a good man but it needs to be her father to man up and take care of his own.

  4. Amber you know the apple dont fall far from the tree, you are proof of that!With that said, I do love you vey much ! I


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