This morning I got a call from my favorite cop regarding my favorite crackhead, a former truck driver named Country who I wrote about more than a year ago in a cover story for the paper version of Unfair Park called "Cruising with the Whore Cop." The whore cop in question, Officer Terry Peters, told me Country is finally going to trial on charges of stealing an 18-wheeler, an incident we wrote about in a subsequent story on cargo theft.
Cleaning up the cluster of truck stops along I-20 in southern Dallas has been hard work for Peters and the other officers who patrol the area, but things are getting better. Earlier this month, The Dallas Morning News ran a front-page story on the efforts of police and social service agencies to stop rampant prostitution there by giving “female offenders a choice between the usual criminal penalties or a probationary community service and rehabilitation program suited to their needs.”
Peters says 11 of the prostitutes he has jailed countless times over the years for working the truck stops are currently in rehab. When I rode along with him, just three were in rehab.
"We're going to look at the prostitutes more as victims than always as a criminals," Deputy Chief Julian Bernal, who oversees the department's vice and narcotics units, told The News. "Most of these women have some type of drug dependency or they've suffered from some type of abuse, mental or physical. Rather than continuing the victimization, we're going to give them opportunities to get on with their life in a more productive manner."
During the time I spent at the truck stops riding around with Officer Peters, there was nothing more heartbreaking than meeting a fresh-faced girl named Twinkie, who looked like she should be in college. Unlike the other girls I met there, her body had not yet been ravaged by the trade. Unlike the other girls I talked to, she had not been brutally beaten and left for dead by truckers, she had not witnessed other girls getting murdered in horrific fashion -- in fact, she had been at the job just a few weeks, and it still embarrassed her to talk about what she did for money.
But she did have one thing in common with Baby Doll and Strawberry and Cookie Monster, other hookers I met with Peters: She was addicted to drugs, and that addiction was driving her to do things she never thought she would do.
We talked about the things she had heard truckers talking about on their radios and how it had scared her. “They were talking about killing us for 20 cents,” she said. “They were talking about us like we’re just meat.”
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Later that night, Peters and I drove down a back road behind one of the truck stops lined with dilapidated houses. We stopped in front of one abandoned house. Peters shined a light inside.
“That’s where Twinkie hopes to stay tonight,” he told me. “But she’s not sure if she can. It’s up to the pimp who runs it. She’s still going through the breaking-in process, so to speak. You know, the guys have to quote-unquote use her.”
I didn’t have a chance this morning to ask Peters how Twinkie’s doing, or even if he saw her again after that night. He was on his way in to court to take care of Country’s case. In all likelihood, sooner or later, Country will wind up back at the truck stop, selling dope and pimping girls. And no matter how many Twinkie’s they put in jail or in rehab, other girls from other places will keep filling the void.
But that doesn’t mean Peters and other cops like them should give up their work. Because for every dozen or so girls that ignore Peters’ help, there are one or two who accept it. And for him, that makes all the late nights worth it. --Jesse Hyde