By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
As more women are led through the trailers and evaluated by counselors, Officer Kenneth Strauss and his partner climb into their cruiser. They're looking for prostitutes tonight, but Felini is planning a crackdown on johns over the coming year, and as the officers drive along the frontage road, they discuss a recent sting operation that netted 10 men for soliciting female undercover agents. "There are so many guys, you could do stings all day and never stop," says Strauss, a short, compact officer who punctuates most of his sentences with "man." "It crosses all boundaries, man." Most of the men are family guys from decent areas, the officers say, married with kids and nice cars. Such men are often unpredictable and dangerous because they have never been arrested and have a lot to lose. "It can go bad real fast," Strauss' partner says. "One guy we picked up was out with a prostitute while his wife and daughters were Christmas shopping." Strauss nods and says, "It's nasty, man."
The officers turn onto a residential street dotted with boarded-up homes. "That's where they do crack and turn tricks," Strauss says. Up ahead, a teenager appears in the headlights. She's standing at the bus stop alone at 10:30 p.m. in denim cutoffs that look tight enough to slice off her legs at crotch level. The officers assume she's prospecting, but after talking to her and calling her mother to verify that she's taking the bus and train home to Garland, they tell the 16-year-old to climb into the cruiser and drop her off at the train station. "We don't usually do that, but we can't leave her there," Strauss says. "Standing there this time of night—the pimps would stop and talk to her, and bam! It's over."
Next, the officers find a 40-ish woman sitting on the sidewalk, swaying. Wearing layers of clothing that appear to be several sizes too big, she looks like a homeless person, but the officers recognize her as a repeat prostitute. Sure enough, she admits she's soliciting and says she has already been arrested seven times. When asked her name, she mutters something unintelligible and then shouts—to no one in particular—"Craven!" An overpowering smell surrounds her, and when a female officer searches the woman, she finds two bottles of Stetson cologne.
"She's hardened," Strauss says. "There's no way to get to her." And yet, two years ago, someone might have said the same of Diane.
Back at the command post, Officer Terrence Peters says he's noticed a difference on his truck stop beat since the police department began diverting women to treatment programs. While many of the prostitutes he got to know well are no longer here because they've died or been killed (he keeps a list of these, and it includes street names like Paper Chase, Unique, Stormy and Strawberry), others are gone because they've gotten clean. He's heard from some of them, and he's even attended some of their graduations and weddings. "I don't see as many that fall into the category of 'tired of being tired,'" he says, though he acknowledges that in their wake have come a younger, newer set of women. "As long as there's demand, there's supply, so is it a major impact? Maybe not. But does it change lives? Absolutely."