Memphis neighborhoods struggle with ebb, flow of prostitution

MEMPHIS , Tenn. (AP) - The criminal activity isn't hard to spot, say residents of the Memphis neighborhoods that see most of the city's prostitution trade.

The owner of a lumber business in the south Memphis area of Bellevue Boulevard says he can see prostitutes pulling up their skirts for passing motorists and taking their johns to rooms in the motel across the street.

"The problem is that there's kind of an ebb and flow to it," said George Buzard, owner of Gates Lumber. "The police crack down on it and run the prostitutes off and (the police) get lax and it comes back.

"And recently it seems like in the past couple of months, not only are there a lot of prostitutes over there, but they're getting bolder and they come across the street and hassle our customers and employees."

About 20 percent of more than 700 prostitution-related arrests in Shelby County this year through July were made in the area a couple of miles south of the Downtown medical district, The Daily News reported.

Police are trying to fight the problem through random stings in different parts of the city, Lt. Christopher Moffatt said.

Sometimes stings are held as often as three times a week. "We like to keep them guessing," Moffatt said. Buzard said he would like the city to begin targeting spots that allegedly harbor prostitution, such as the motel across the street, in the same way several recent stings have targeted illegal activity at strip clubs.

"One of the things that will get people's attention is if you inconvenience them," Buzard said. "If the authorities would inconvenience this motel, they'd go somewhere else." Arrests net both prostitutes and the men accused of pimping them.

"There are those that are actually like the pimps you see in movies, the 'super fly pimps' that really have a stable of women out there," General Sessions Judge Loyce Lambert-Ryan said.

"They get the women hooked on drugs and the women actually bring their money to them. "Then there are the pimps that give referrals. These men may stand out on the corner and direct potential johns to a woman waiting in a motel room.

For those referrals, the men may get $5 to $10 per referral." While police and residents try to cope with the problem, others attempt to treat and counsel the women drawn into the trade.

A Way Out is a program spun off from Citizens for Community Values, founded as an anti-pornography organization.

The faith-based program works with other outfits to counsel and support prostitutes trying to leave the business.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)