Tracking prostitution in Houston

March 12, 2008 9:40:52 PM PDT
Just a couple of hours after the governor of New York announced he's stepping down as a result of alleged involvement in a prostitution ring, Houston police gave us more details about the prostitution arrests we first showed you Tuesday night. One of those arrested is a man who applied to be a police officer earlier this year. We shot exclusive video of him being taken into custody. He's one of ten people who are facing charges. They were all taken into custody on the northeast side. And now, we're learning it's not just a problem on Houston's streets.

If you want sex for just $20, you can head to a street corner. But if you want something more high dollar, you need to find a phone number. High priced escort services are in the news these days and the folks with HPD's vice division say they don't just exist in New York.

While some of Houston's prostitution problems are in plain sight -- so-called 'Johns' allegedly looking for sex on street corners -- others are not so obvious. That is, until you hit the internet.

"All you have to do is do a Google search," said Capt. Glenn Yorek with the HPD vice division.

These are higher priced hookers.

"It can run about $200 an hour," said Yorek.

Websites and magazines are their street corners. They may not look like the one former New York Governor Eliott Spitzer is accused of summoning from the Emperors Club, but they're here in Houston, says Yorek, and they're in high demand.

"They wouldn't be spending this much money in this many avenues if there weren't people willing to pay for it," he said.

We easily found hundreds of ads placed by escort agencies, like 'Secret Desire' and 'For Your Eyes Only.' Girls ask for "donations" in return for dinner dates and companionship, but according to Captain Yorek, what they really give...

"It's sex," he said.

So to combat it, HPD goes undercover either by calling these services and seeing how far an escort will go or by planting their own phone number in an ad and seeing who bites.

"You may be calling in to a line," said Yorek. "It may be us you're calling in to."

When HPD showed us the phone line today, the voicemail was full. Big events, like the Super Bowl, always attract more call girls. The department's small vice division is always busy.

The ones like Tuesday may be the arrests you see, but one undercover officer says their focus is broad.

"We work them all, from street walkers all the way to high class prostitutes," said the officer.

Vice officers say the reality is they do end up spending more time targeting street prostitution but only because more citizens complain about it. They say you'd be surprised about who they have busted. It runs the entire spectrum from blue collar workers to well respected doctors and ministers.

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