A criminal justice student is participating in a “ride-along” with a patrol unit (two officers) in a mid-sized Midwestern city to observe the unit’s operations. They observe a street corner on which three women appear to be engaged in prostitution: the women are scantily clad and engaged in conversation with people in cars and passing pedestrians. The two patrol officers simply give a small wave to the women and keep driving.
The student asks why the officers did not stop and question or arrest them—to the student, it is clear that the women are prostitutes. “It’s part of the arrangement,” says the senior officer. “They have certain areas they are allowed to work in as long as they are not really bothering people or creating trouble and we leave them alone. Then when we have a major case go down, they agree to help us gather information on the ’who and where’ of suspects. They self-police and keep their customers from being robbed. It’s sort of a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ policy that the new chief put in about two years ago.”
The junior officer chimes in, “They also know that for publicity’s sake we do a roundup of them about every six months and book them, but the cases never get processed.” “Does this really work?” asks the student.
The senior officer responds, “Yeah, sometimes it works pretty well, but the main thing is it saves us a lot of time and effort of having to constantly work these cases. Now we have more manpower to work on real crimes, and occasionally one of these girls will come up with great leads on some big cases.”
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