Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Prostitution problem - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Joe Birch

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Prostitution problem

One of the biggest names in Memphis towing has powerful trucks that can pull airplanes, tugboats and even fish your car out of the river.  But the wrecker service can't seem to put a hook on the hookers infesting their south Memphis neighborhood.

A snapshot taken by an employee of Davenport Wrecker Service shows a prostitute soliciting a driver at Road Runner Petro, a truck stop at 3084 South Third.

"We even have some prostitutes, male dressed up like female, and you call police and they won't respond," said Dave Brown, as dispatcher for Davenport.

The wrecker service owns the truck stop, and leases to Road Runner Petro. Davenport staff say they have a clear view of illicit activities on the lot and call police often.  Some, like driver Jimmy Rines, say the police aren't doing a good enough job.

"Not as good as they could be," Rines said.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin disagrees.

"It may look like nothing is happening, but we're hitting it, I mean we're hitting it, and we're going to keep hitting it," Godwin said. "I mean, I'm going to agree with them. It is an eyesore."

Godwin's staff produced a report of 276 prostitution arrests citywide in the past three months, some in the vicinity of the truck stop.

Far from ignoring prostitution, the police director noted April's Operation Fallen Angel, which netted dozens of hookers. Police also busted johns and seized their cars in Operation Wheels for Deals. Godwin said sometimes calls about the illicit sex trade receive a lower priority.
"The number one thing we have to do is handle calls for service. That's number one. That's above everything," Godwin said. "When a citizen calls, you got to go. Everything else becomes specialized, whether it be addressing drug deals, prostitution, gambling, vice operations...all those things become secondary."

The towing service has called police on problem people at the truck stop so often, there's an official listing of persons barred from the premises.  But even after getting arrested, the same hookers - repeat offenders - return night after night.

"It's like this everyday down here," Brown said.

The operator of Road Runner Petro told said he tries to run off hookers, but is often outnumbered.

"When we get more officers, it's going to get better," Godwin said.

In the meantime, Davenport staffers say, they'll keep reporting the presence of prostitution as their way of Taking Back Our Neighborhoods!

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