Article, LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking

LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking. I forgot to post this last month. There were 6 drive by shootings of non gang members in LA in the last 3 weeks and this is how the City utilizes it’s funds and limited resources.

LA Times, Sunday March 16,2008
L.A.’s streets move online
Modern call girls now turn their tricks on Craigslist.
Steve Lopez

March 16, 2008

Midafternoon on a workday, and what am I doing? 
Surfing the Internet for hookers.

But it’s not what it sounds like, I swear. The Eliot Spitzer scandal back East made me wonder how a lonely politician might get into trouble here in the land of milk and honey. So I’m with the vice squad at a downtown Los Angeles police station, tracking suspicious ads on Craigslist and other websites.

Yes, Craigslist, which offers much more these days than used sofas and 1997 Subarus.

“College Girl Available for Naughty Fun All Day And Night,” says one ad.

“Independent Hottie,” says another, one of hundreds in Los Angeles offering something for every conceivable gender and sexual preference.

“This is the new age of streetwalking,” says Officer Manuel Ramirez, who answers the ads and sets up sting operations with his colleagues. “It’s not as conspicuous as standing on a corner.”

Jody “Babydol” Gibson, the Hollywood supermadam who served 22 months when her Hollywood operation was busted, told me the job she and Heidi Fleiss used to perform has been made obsolete. Her new book, “Sex on the Internet,” is a guide to the websites the cops now peruse.

“There’s no need for a madam or a brothel today,” Gibson said.

Some of the ads on those sites are fairly discreet, while others let it all hang out, so to speak, complete with photos no mother or child should ever see.

“Hung Hot Guy” shows the proof, for instance.

“I want to give you some early morning satisfaction,” says Jessica, who posed without her britches. She lists the price of a good time at $80 for 15 minutes, $120 for 30 minutes or $180 for an hour.

Some of the ads are a little more legally savvy and the prices can soar into Gov. Spitzer’s high-roller territory. Take Alysha, for instance, who advertises on another popular website that she takes “donations” ranging from $500 for an hour to $3,000 for a “naughty night.”

Some of the most expensive hookers in Southern California have been known to work the hotels near LAX, said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith, where they might sidle up to traveling businessmen at a bar.

But there’s no doubt, the vice cops tell me, that the bulk of sex industry business is now conducted on the Internet.

“I kind of think of Craigslist as the pimp,” Capt. Jody Wakefield said when she walked into the vice room and saw her officers at work.

That’s one way to look at it. On the other hand, Craigslist and other sites are providing thousands of good leads to cops, and maybe helping to expose sociopaths.

Craig himself, last name Newmark, e-mailed me to say that he has cooperated fully with police in Los Angeles and elsewhere, helping with “forensics” to “pursue Internet crime.”

Even so, I thought it was only fair to ask why the vice squad is working the Internet on the trail of what is often referred to as a victimless crime, and a misdemeanor at that.

Legalize prostitution, some argue, and redeploy the cops to go after car thieves, burglars and gang-bangers.

Smith had an answer. Prostitution investigations aren’t just about selling sex. They often lead cops to crimes involving drugs, child exploitation and assault.

The working girls and boys are “sometimes on drugs, they’re beaten up, they get their teeth kicked out and get into a huge downward spiral,” said Smith. Some who work the ritzy downtown L.A. hotels have ended up addicted and desperate on skid row, he added, where assaults and even the murder of prostitutes is not uncommon.

The vice team of Sgt. Dan Gonzalez and Officers Ramirez and Jose Contreras has been hitting expensive downtown hotels of late. Typically, the officers said, a prostitute will check into a hotel room for a few hundred dollars a night and immediately post an ad on Craigslist, saying she’s available.

“I’ll pamper you and take care of you head to toe!” claims an ad by a blond named Porsche. “Come visit me in my hotel room . . . I’m waiting.”

The pros don’t name a specific hotel, but list a phone number or an e-mail address. The vice squad recently answered one for a 19-year-old woman, set up a rendezvous, and knocked on a hotel door to find a 14-year-old who was booked for prostitution and taken to juvenile hall.

It’s common, the cops said, to find someone other than the girl in the photo when answering an ad. The 14-year-old was no exception.

“She looked like she was closer to 12,” said Officer Ramirez. A pregnant older companion had apparently rented the room earlier that day, and the 14-year-old claimed to have already earned $1,000 from clients paying about $200 apiece.

The officers tried to talk some sense into her, but the angry young prostitute told them to mind their own business.

“She said, ‘The money’s too good,’ ” and boasted of $2,000 days, said Ramirez.

The same vice unit also arrested a 15-year-old female hooker and a 15-year-old boy recently. In the latter case, hotel security called police to say there was loud screaming coming from a room. Police found the 15-year-old boy and a man in his 40s in bed, and the 15-year-old, who was drunk, told them he had advertised his services on Craigslist.

While I watched the officers work the phones, Gonzalez scanned Cityvibe and Craigslist, printing out ads for his officers to check out. There’s no fetish that can’t be serviced, and there was no shortage of pregnant women ready for action, including a brunet who called herself “showing and glowing.”

“Sweet, sexy and worth every penny,” said an ad by Carmen, who listed a 310 phone number.

Contreras dialed and got an answering machine.

“Hey, Carmen, this is Alex,” he said. “I just saw your picture on Craigslist. You look delicious. Give me a call.”

He left a message for Jenny too, who offered a massage at $200 an hour. Contreras said he was in town for the Pac-10 basketball tournament, and had some free time before watching his alma mater, Arizona State, play USC.

Less than a minute later, Jenny called back.

“Yeah, hi, this is Alex,” he said.

The trick is to get the suspect to agree to a sex act for a dollar amount. But experienced marks avoid such details over the phone, and Jenny cut Contreras off when he broached those subjects.

“I’ve gone to these places before and it’s a totally different girl,” he told her.

“Well, I’m the girl in the picture,” I could hear her say as Contreras held the receiver close to my ear. “I’m not fat,” she went on. “It’s not like I’m a model.”

Jenny told him to call back later and she’d tell him where to meet her in South Pasadena. He said he would, but that’s beyond the LAPD’s jurisdiction.

So the police went back to working the darkest alleys and corners of the Web galaxy, where the oldest profession is using all the newest tricks.

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