7 Things You Learn As A Cop Pretending To Be A Hooker
Where you have people, you will have prostitution. That's been an immutable law for however long civilization has been around. But now, where there are prostitutes, there are also police officers doing their best to bust them and their clients. We've talked with several illegal sex workers over the years, but we recently had a chance to sit down with a pair of police officers -- John and Jane -- who carried out sting operations against street-level prostitutes in a large American city. Here's what we learned ...
Lady Cops Play Hookers, Fake Cops Play Johns
The division of labor in a prostitution sting is inherently unfair. Men either get to play Johns -- spending their night picking up prostitutes -- or they get to lay in wait for one of the female cops to score a real John, and then jump out and arrest him. Our source John described the work as "a lot of fun" and noted there was "a sporting aspect" to it, while also admitting that for the women it could be "sketchy as hell."
"In , it tends to be more of a cowboy situation ... Usually they'll assign it to a sergeant, he takes his crew out -- as you would expect, there tend to be fewer female cops than males, so they get tapped from anywhere in the district."
"Sorry, Sheriff. We know you have a city to run, but these fishnets aren't gonna wear themselves."
Our source Jane pointed out that "female officers will get tapped to do this nonsense before they've even done a day on patrol." She noted that "there wasn't much explaining. You're asked to do it ... but they don't have many females and you kinda feel like you're expected to take one for the team."
Some male cops actively pretend to be Johns, soliciting prostitutes so as to bust them. Our source John looked, in his own words, "like a cop," so his job was to hang around undercover lady cops and swoop in to make the bust when they caught a would-be customer. Neither of our sources reported receiving much training for this job. As Jane told us, "It's 'adapt and overcome.' You don't get a lot of training on how to act like a prostitute."
"These are what we call 'functional props.'"
But while there's not much training you can do for the job of "standing around and waiting for someone to pay to fuck you," there IS a lot of preparation involved in setting up a prostitution sting ...
Camouflage Is Step One
John needed to blend in enough that no one would question his presence on a street corner in a bad part of town. Fortunately, there's one job you'll find in every city in America that acts as your pass card to any neighborhood: pizza delivery guy.
"I'd have a pizza hat so I could look like I was involved in pizza delivery," he told us. So if you're ever looking to pay for some strange, but you see a pizza guy with a high-and-tight haircut standing nearby, maybe move down a couple of blocks. Especially if it's summer and he's wearing a jacket: "You always want to wear a jacket, because you're armed ... when it's hot, that looks weird."
The worst part about getting arrested by a guy carrying pizza? He won't let you have any.
At this point during the interview, our source Jane piped up, "Try doing it as a girl!" She elaborated: "I always try to wear a jacket -- even a short-sleeve jacket -- so I can conceal a weapon. I know other females who would not wear weapons ... but I'm paranoid. You always need a badge. I'd tuck that into a shirt; the jacket conceals that. You can't look like you're trying too hard."
"Excuse me while I slip into something more authoritative."
So there you go, shady Cracked readers who pick up hookers on darkened street corners: Stay the fuck away from anyone wearing a jacket during the summer. And, we guess, avoid paying for sex during the winter. Maybe your dick can hibernate for a bit.
People Sometimes Recognize You
It's common for cops to work in the same cities they grew up in. This is normally a good thing -- it means they've got a connection to the place they work, and hopefully some insight into daily life there. But for female cops who wind up fake-hooking, it can lead to some awkward encounters. As Jane related, "I actually grew up in ... each district is broken down into sections. They put me in Section 5. I grew up in Section 5. I told them this wasn't a good idea -- I'd lived there my entire life ..."
Naturally, they didn't listen, and Jane was deployed in full hooker regalia to her home streets, because there's no way that could go terribly wrong. "We go to the area, I get out, not even there five minutes when someone recognized me and asked how the academy was going."
"You know, the academy ... for police ... to become a cop ... Wait, where are you going!?"
That blew her cover for the day, but it wasn't as bad as what happened to a colleague: "I was with this particular girl, at a bus stop getting Johns. A car stops, and we think it's someone ... a woman gets out and starts yelling at stuff like, 'This isn't the way!' Just yelling at her. And it turns out this is someone she went to high school with, crying 'Let me help you, come with me.' Meanwhile, she's trying to show her badge and be like 'I'm working here' ... Her friend was slightly embarrassed, and drove off. That was my first day."
And the last day that woman ever considered attending her school's 10-year reunion.
Of course, every neighborhood isn't a hotbed of street-level prostitution. With prostitution stings, as with real estate ...
Nothing Matters More Than Location
Prostitution occurs everywhere. But in the wealthier parts of a city, it primarily takes the form of high-priced escort services. Our sources were busting street-level prostitutes, which meant rolling out to "known prostitution areas." Jane recalled, "They'd ... generally drop us off at a gas station so it wouldn't look that obvious. The worse the neighborhood, the more everyone knows everyone else. So you have to be careful getting dropped off, so it doesn't look too obvious."
But there's significant variety even within the parts of a city where ladies of the night ply their trade. Here's John: "If you want to be a prostitute, know the area, know the style. The sketchy area has a different style than the county line. Different types of clothes ... The county prefers boobs, while the deeper in the city you get, it's all about the butt."
My anaconda won't get none / Because I'm im-pri-soned
Race is also an important factor in this kind of work. "A Caucasian lady doing that in inner-city won't have a whole lot of luck," John said. "That's not to say they don't exist -- I saw a Korean prostitute who called herself 'China.' She was out there a good six months before her family scooped her up or ... something horrid."
Unfortunately, "something horrid" is just as likely as any potentially happier ending. There's not much empirical data on the career trajectory of street-level prostitutes, but what data we have suggests most of these women are subject to around a dozen violent assaults each year. Mind you, that's out of hundreds and hundreds of 'tricks,' because ...
Finding Clients Is So Easy That It's Basically Cheating
It's not hard to find men willing to pay 10 or 20 bucks for a blowjob. As Jane told us, "When I started, I had the impression ... that you had to be attractive." But she quickly found that the best way to blend in was to look like she'd just "rolled out of bed ... I would actually put grease in my hair to make it look like I was filthy. I'd make sure my hair wasn't brushed. The stuff that's in movies, how a prostitute looks ... on the street, it goes the exact opposite."
Reality is less Pretty Woman and more "the depressing first draft of Pretty Woman."
Prostitution is so common in major cities that the average hooker can go as many as 450 tricks without being busted once. There's really not much danger, particularly on the "hiring prostitutes" end of things, so Johns usually aren't all that paranoid. Here's Jane: "We didn't need much in the way of tactics; it was just walking on the corner. People would pull up and ask how much."
In fact, she recalled accidentally passing for a prostitute well before she ever started working as a cop: "I grew up in the inner city ... you know how teenagers dress provocatively? I was on E Avenue as a teenager, we were literally just waiting for a bus, and cars would ask how much. People are bold because they can be."
Nowadays, those guys are still asking "how much," but this time it's to the judge setting bail.
Our source John pointed out that his anonymous city earned the moniker "Pussy City" -- at least, according to one cab driver they busted.
"He was arrested up for picking up one of the 'fauxstitutes,' and was one of the many cabbies that seem to engage in that activity during their downtime. He worked elsewhere, but said he and his cohorts would frequently come into the city for this purpose, since it was so easy. Well, usually, at least."
We Use Signals To Hide Until The Last Minute
So while the business of busting sex workers isn't exactly rocket science, some amount of cunning is necessary. Copstitutes have to develop their own signals for bringing down the hammer of the law on an unsuspecting John:
"My symbol was wiping my brow" said Jane, "like it's hot outside. Generally, when we did it, it was semi-warm outside. I preferred it that way to keep it consistent ..."
Timing is critical here, because the police can't make a bust until the client has handed over cash for the proposed sex act. "Because otherwise," explains John, "he can say he was just seeing how it was gonna go. They have to give you something. You have to be able to clearly describe how he was paying for a sexual act, and how you know what he was paying for."
"Wait, does this mean you guys aren't going to give me my change?"
And on the other side of the equation, when male cops go out posing as Johns to bust prostitutes, "there's this gambit. You have cops in the back of a school send one guy out in a car to pick . They get in a car with the guy, and he drives into a cluster of policemen, and they're all under arrest. The all-time record had to be this guy ... he was very good at picking up prostitutes, maybe he had some outside interest ... he was successful in gathering five prostitutes in the same car, all different ones from different places, getting them all in his car and, OH, it did not go well ... One of them noticed some flex cuffs in the back. It was like a clown car pile-out, with them yelling 'Five-o! Five-o!'"
They normally don't leave a car that quick unless the John asks if it's cool if they pay by check.
Those eagle-eyed prostitutes escaped. John and his fellow officers weren't about to go out and chase them because, "If we went chasing and came over the radio yelling 'foot pursuit!' to the rest of the district for something like that, we'd be laughingstocks."
A Surprisingly Broad Group Of People Hire Prostitutes
People from all walks of life and economic stations employ sex workers. But the wealthy tend to do it in expensive brothels or via escort services. These are expensive but safe options, because bank managers and senators aren't about to risk getting busted soliciting some strange behind a Sbarros. John told us:
"The ones we dealt with were primarily the $10 variety for fellatio ... and that's usually as far as it went. There's a whole kinda payment system ... a lot of the payment was in drugs, of course, and a common is something we'd refer to as 'failure to pay.' These women would call in and say they were raped, assaulted, robbed ... it turned out their John just didn't pay them."
"Wow, this John guy sounds like a real cheap-ass."
Of course, it's worth pointing out that prostitutes are nine times more likely to be murdered than other women. There's no real way to know how many of those 911 calls chalked up as "failures to pay" are women reporting legitimate abuse.
And there's also no way to predict what sort of dudes will go out on the street in search of paid sex. Jane told us, "My first John was an old, old, OLD guy -- at least 70. It didn't make sense. He looked like a grandfather." And John added, "There's no MO for a John. We saw every age range, ethnicity, level of wealth ... One of the ladies was picked up by a teenage Jewish boy on ... they had to notify his dad, but Dad can't drive because of religious obligations, so he had to call a taxi to pick his son up."
If it was the same cabbie our sources arrested earlier, his advice to the young John
would ensure the Circle Of Strange continues uninterrupted for a little bit longer.
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It turns out getting into prostitution isn't always for horrifying reasons. See what we mean in 5 Ways Life As A Prostitute Is Nothing Like You Expect. And read 5 Myths About Prostitutes I Believed (Until I Was One) to learn how to properly check a dick.
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