9 Arrested in Sex-Related Sting

Women ranging from 20 to 49 in age were all booked on same day.
By Shoshana Walter
Published: Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 10:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 10:54 p.m.

LAKELAND | An undercover operation resulted in the arrests last week of nine women on prostitution-related charges.

A Lakeland police officer posed as a John, while another officer took audio recordings of the transactions and two other detectives made the arrests in an area near downtown Lakeland that police say is a hotbed for sex work.

The women arrested Dec. 16 ranged in age from 20 to 49. Charges for most of them included soliciting for prostitution, which is a misdemeanor for the first three offenses before it becomes a third-degree felony.

In most of the cases, the women got into the undercover officer’s car and talked. When the two decided on a location for the transaction, the officer recording the conversation gave the information to the two officers trailing behind in a patrol car.

The undercover officer then drove to the location, and after agreeing on a service and a price with the women the two officers activated their emergency lights and made the arrests, according to reports.

Officers encountered trouble in the case of one woman who resisted arrest by tensing and flailing her limbs, a police report said. As she was being handcuffed, officers heard a loud pop, according to the report, and the woman complained that her left arm was going numb. She was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where she received a soft cast for a spiral fracture.

Police spokesman Jack Gillen said the incident would be reviewed by a department board to determine whether the officers’ use of force was justified.

Gillen said the department regularly monitors prostitution. The undercover approach is used to catch sex workers and their customers, he said.

[ Shoshana Walter can be reached at shoshana.walter@theledger.com or 863-802-7590. ]


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