Kent Police arrested 26 men on one day for investigation of patronizing prostitutes during a recent undercover sting at a hotel.
The man ranged in age from 21 to 60, said Kent Police Cmdr. Jarod Kasner. He added they were mainly from King County, including the cities of Kent, Renton, Auburn and Federal Way.
“These types of collaborative enforcement stings are successful in combating human trafficking and making an impact,” Kasner said about the reason for the Oct. 29 operation.
Officers targeted “johns” or customers of prostitutes. Police placed an ad in the escorts section of Backpage.com with a phone number to contact a woman featured in the ad, according to a police report.
Undercover female officers from the Federal Way Police Department posed as prostitutes or “escorts” and answered the phone. The woman would get the man to agree to pay for sex and to meet at a specific hotel in the 22500 block of 83rd Avenue South. Police used two hotel rooms to operate the sting.
When the man arrived at the hotel, he called the cell number again to see which room to go to. When the man knocked on the room door, he would be arrested by four officers.
One man told police he didn’t agree to pay for any sex. He said he just showed up for some companionship during his lunch break.
Council President Dana Ralph praised the work of the police department’s sting at the Nov. 4 council meeting. She said as a result of fees and fines in known areas of prostitution and other fees against the “johns,” the operation brought in $46,500 to the city. She said half of that money will go to programs to support victims of prostitution.
“That’s an amazing number we are able to provide service providers with money to help the victims of human trafficking in this community,” Ralph said. “The city of Kent is a leader in this area and we are doing tremendous work.
“I want to thank the police department for continuing this process and recognizing there are victims in this crime and that those victims benefit from our assistance.”
The sting is part of a larger effort announced in October by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and several police agencies to focus on arresting the customers of prostitutes. An estimated 27,000 men are actively soliciting sex online each day in the county, according to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
Anyone arrested in prostitution cases faces a variety of fees and fines.
“There are many fines, from impound fees to fines and court fees,” Kasner said. “Half of the money does go to programs to get women out of prostitution and to combat human trafficking. The other half is used for further enforcement directed at prostitution and human trafficking.”
The Legislature in 2009 passed a law that owners of vehicles used to commit prostitution crimes in known areas or prostitution can have their vehicle impounded by police and must pay a $500 fine to get the vehicle back. If the owners are later found not guilty of the crime, they get the money back.
Kent Police first used a vehicle impound fine in July 2009 shortly after the Legislature passed the measure in an effort to slow prostitution activity along Pacific Highway South, a well-known prostitution area for decades.
Under state law, cities can designate areas as known prostitution zones based on previous crimes. The city must post signs to indicate the zone as a prostitution area.
Kent has five such areas, which also includes all adjacent businesses:
• Pacific Highway South from the south side of South 272nd Street to State Route 516 (also known as Kent-Des Moines Road)
• 30th Avenue South from South 240th Street to State Route 516
• South 240th Street from the 2700 block through the 3200 block
• Central Avenue North/84th Avenue South from Novak Lane to South 222nd Street
• 83rd Avenue South from South 228th Street to South 224th Street