A man from a Chicago suburb invited a woman he met on K Street, who called herself “Kay D,” to his downtown Washington hotel room and agreed to pay $100 for sex. Another man, from Leesburg, offered a woman $100, telling her he wanted the “pleasure of your company.”
The women were undercover D.C. police officers, and both visitors to the District found themselves under arrest last week and charged with soliciting for prostitution. The details of their interactions with the officers come from police affidavits filed in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday and Thursday.
The two were among 63 men busted in the past two weeks in a police operation sweeping downtown Washington, from Logan Circle to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, after complaints from residents of street-corner prostitution making a comeback in recent months.
“There is a resurgence of the showgirl prostitute, women walking around scantily clad, if at all,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represents much of downtown. “They go to the jurisdiction of least resistance. And unfortunately, we weren’t clamping down in the April, May and June months, and it picked up.”
Parts of downtown Washington, especially the 14th Street corridor, once teemed with the illicit sex trade. But a rapid influx of new residents, booming housing prices and boutique restaurants helped push out much of the activity. Many prostitutes also turned to the Internet, setting up meetings at hotels online rather than trolling street corners.
Recent police operations have focused on Internet sites on which prostitutes freely advertise, with undercover officers placing fake ads to lure men to rooms.
In January, such advertisements resulted in D.C. police arrests in hotels in and around Thomas Circle.
In February, a lawyer from a downtown firm was fatally stabbed and robbed in his Thomas Circle hotel room by a woman who had answered an online ad he posted. He had been seeking a man, although, police said, a woman showed up and killed him in a robbery. The woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May.
District police started their latest clampdown July 14, with operations throughout downtown and along West Virginia Avenue NE in Trinidad, near New York Avenue.
Cmdr. Robin Hoey, who heads the narcotics and special investigation unit, said complaints from residents were pouring in. He also noted that men who solicit sex often become targets of crime. “These guys are going to get robbed,” Hoey said. “We’re trying to eradicate this business right out of the neighborhoods.”
Hoey said police are targeting prostitutes on the streets and those who advertise online. His advice to men seeking an illegal liaison: “Don’t do it. Stay home.”
In one arrest, a 40-year-old man from outside Chicago was at 11th and K streets NW about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. He told a woman — who turned out to be an undercover police officer — that he was lost, looking for the “Grand Marquett” hotel.
“Oh, what else are you looking for?” the woman said, according to a transcript in the court file.
“I don’t know, do you wanna come with me?” the man answered.
He then asked, “What services do you offer?” and, according to the police affidavit, he agreed to $100 for sex and invited her to his hotel room. The man could not be reached for comment.
Police arrested another man from Leesburg the next day at the same intersection. The 60-year-old was more coy, telling the undercover officer only that he wanted her company, but did agree to pay her when she asked: “So, you want sex, baby?”
At one point, the man, who was in a car, noticed uniformed police officers nearby. He got nervous, according to the affidavit, and asked the woman, “Those cops aren’t out here for you?” She answered, “No baby, this is their area. Pull over there.”
Neighborhood civic leaders said residents have noticed an uptick in the presence of street prostitutes in recent months.
“Our constituents have complained, and we have informed the police department,” said John Tinpe, a member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C, which encompasses areas around the convention center and west to 15th Street. “The police promised to crack down. Problem is, when police arrive on one block, they move to the next block. We have to keep on it.”
Charlie Bengel, who chairs the public safety committee for ANC 2F, Logan Circle, said “it is common to see prostitutes in the neighborhood in the wee hours of most mornings.”
Prostitution “is the number one complaint I received while running for office, and remains the number of one complaint I receive,” Bengel said. “Residents are tired of picking up used condoms in yards, parishioners are tired of seeing prostitutes while walking to church, and parents are tired of having to cross the street with children in hand to avoid prostitutes while walking to school.”
Evans, the council member, has proposed giving police the authority to tow and impound a vehicle when they have probable cause to believe it has been used by a john, as the term is known. He has dubbed it the “Honey, I lost the car” bill.
Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.