- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

Residents in the Congress Heights neighborhood yesterday wanted to know why police spent several days arresting 54 men for solicitations when murders and other violent crimes were going unsolved. Fifteen more were arrested not far away on First Street SE.

“I don’t understand why they would [crack down] on prostitution when people around here get killed,” said Talitha Weaver, 36, who says she also is involved in prostitution.

The Metropolitan Police Department placed 14 female officers dressed in T-shirts and jeans or shorts Friday night on corners in Congress Heights, said Winston Robinson, commander of the 7th District.

He said the men would initiate a dialogue, then say something like, “I’ll give you $40” before they were arrested.

Though police said female police officers did not encourage the men, other residents also were suspicious.

“It’s entrapment to some degree,” said Mark Brinkley, 44.

He said drug-related violence in nearby housing complexes is what makes the neighborhood unsafe.

The men arrested are facing charges of soliciting for prostitution and most are repeat offenders, Cmdr. Robinson said.

Seventh District police conducted a similar operation Tuesday on the 4300 block of First Street.

Fifteen men were arrested in the operation.

Cmdr. Robinson said the 7th District has a high incidence of prostitution, and the department has received about 100 complaints this year. “We recognize we have a problem here and we are cracking down,” he said. “Prostitution is not a victimless crime. Prostitution is a crime that spawns other crimes.”

Cmdr. Robinson said prostitution leads to carjacking, homicides, kidnapping and robberies.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams supported the department’s efforts yesterday.

“Yes, there is a prostitution problem in this city, and I take it very seriously and obviously so does Chief [Charles H.] Ramsey,” he said.

Tony Bullock, the mayor’s spokesman, said Mr. Williams and the chief have been working on reducing prostitution in the city for “quite some time” and that news of the sting is the first time anyone has paid attention.

Judith Person and Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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