WOODBURY - It is referred to as the world's "oldest profession" -- selling sex. And the Nassau County Narcotics/Vice Squad is right now on an active crackdown of prostitution happening on Long Island. In Part 2 of this investigative series about prostitution, I go on an undercover bust with Nassau County police as they search for -- and arrest -- people allegedly using Long Island as a place to prostitute themselves.
It all starts at the command center for the Narcotics/Vice Bureau. Deputy Inspector Kevin Smith and Sgt. Brian Sweeney head up the operation. Their detectives search for ads on backpage.com -- a website many people call, the "new Craigslist." Backpage gives prostitutes an outlet to advertise, retain and keep clients. That's where Vice starts when they're looking to make a bust. "In a way, the Internet has become the new street corner," says Deputy Inspector Smith.
We set out, arriving at our first hotel around 7 o'clock at night. An undercover detective wearing a secret recording device heads into a hotel in Westbury after calling and making an appointment with a woman he saw on backpage.com. Deputy Inspector Smith, Sgt. Sweeney, and I listen in on the hidden radio. Not even two minutes after the undercover is in the room, an offer of sex for money at the rate of $150 is made. The backup team heads in to make the arrest. "We get a lot of out of town girls that'll come out here," says Sgt. Sweeney. "They get addicted to the cash."
The bust was for only one woman, but in the process detectives tell us they found two more women doing the same thing inside the hotel. They set up another quick operation, and arrest two more women inside the hotel. "There's no doubt there were more inside that hotel," says Sgt. Sweeney.
The sting didn't end there. We drive to another hotel just minutes away in Hicksville after the undercover detective set up another meeting with another woman he found on backpage.com. And once again, we listen in on the transaction inside the car. The backup team gets the word -- and they walk the woman out in handcuffs, arrested on prostitution charges.
Police tell me after they made these arrests, they don't just put the suspects behind bars and move on to the next. They talk to them. They find out information from them that could possibly solve other crimes. They also find out their story, and why they're in this situation. They try to help them. Deputy Inspector Smith tells me the age range of people arrested for prostitution this year is 16-56. Those numbers go to show just how many different types of people are committing this crime, and living this lifestyle. Also, most of them are from outside Nassau County. People are coming to Long Island to do this work. And the Nassau County police want to put a stop to that.
In just one night, four women were arrested for allegedly trying to sell sex. In fact, in just three months the Nassau Narcotics/Vice Squad has tripled the amount of arrests for prostitution they made ALL of last year.
"It's a quality of life thing," says Deputy Inspector Smith. "My bosses want me to clean things up. And that's what we're doing."