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Mimi runs through her life by the numbers: Residents frequently air complaints at neighborhood meetings. Sex in the alleyways, condoms on the stoop, late-night altercations about money or drugs. The sex workers, mostly women, work in plain sight near schools and businesses and family homes. Every story has a history of tears:. Much like the drug trade, the vice squad faces the question of supply or demand. And as much as Ferguson would prefer to lock up all the johns, the reality is that, each year, Philadelphia police arrest hundreds more sex workers than they do johns on the streets.
The cops laid a bait post on Backpage. Men answered the calls for a hotel date. Once they had sufficient evidence, the squad collared seven men for solicitation. Around the same time, the PPD also started posting pictures of individuals arrested for solicitation on Facebook. It was part of a larger deterrence effort that prioritizes the so-called johns, who are mostly men, rather than the sex workers, who are mostly women, and many of them victims. Nonetheless, between and , the PPD made 5, arrests for prostitution, compared to only 1, for solicitation.
In , the police department made arrests for solicitation across the city—the most Johns police have ever locked up in a single year, according to Ferguson. That same year, officers also hit record-high numbers for prostitution arrests with 1, Many of the arrests are for street prostitution, the bulk of which occur along Kensington Avenue, though there are other locales along Old York Road in North Philly, and even certain corners in Center City.
Police make prostitution arrests using plain-clothes officers. But the former takes fewer resources than the latter. At the end of the day, the workers themselves present a more visible problem to the surrounding community.
Sometimes they know the exact corner their loved one is working along the Avenue—standing outside the bodega on A Street, sitting the fire hydrant beneath the tree on Albert Street—and they beg Ferguson to arrest her, if only to get her off the streets for a night. Mimi is dope-sick, catching warmth in a pizza shop.