If you thought something was different about Thompson Blvd. in Ventura over the past week, you might have noticed fewer people cruising for sleaze.
At least, that is what the Ventura Police Department hopes will be the lasting effect of an undercover sting operation it conducted May 10. About 10 special enforcement team members took part in an operation that day targeting “johns,” or individuals who sought the service
The operation, which also included the participation of additional patrol officers, targeted a stretch of Thompson between Ventura Ave. and San Clemente Street, an area Sergeant Jack Richards, a police spokesman, said is notorious for its prostitution.
“This prostitution sting was targeted to detour Johns,” Richards said.
Led by Sergeant Mark Stadler, the sting deployed undercover officers along Thompson to pose as prostitutes. The effort was a response to complaints from local citizens and businesses, according to the Ventura Police Department.
Only four people were arrested during the sting. Three individuals, Jose Garcia of Carpinteria, Michael Desart of Ventura and Alvin Griscavage of Oxnard were arrested for solicitation of prostitution. The fourth suspect, John White of Ventura, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. According to the release, many more individuals approached the undercover officers to determine if they were prostitutes, but Garcia, Desart, and Griscavage were the only suspects alleged to have solicited for prostitution. White allegedly offered and displayed drugs to an officer and was subsequently arrested on the possession charge.
“There’s drugs involved with this activity most times,” Richards said.
He said that the operation was planned because prostitution has become more common on Thompson in recent years. In the 1980s, he said, he was involved with four or five similar operations. Now, he said, the police department hopes that by targeting individuals trolling for prostitutes it may put a damper on the activity. Whereas prostitutes in need of a quick buck might quickly return to the streets, Johns – who are usually cited and released – can be scared away by the crackdown.
“We can’t really stop the prostitute,” he said. “We tend to deter a lot of other people but we won’t deter prostitutes because that’s their living.”
In the recent operation, a remote command post was set up by the police to take suspects to be booked. In addition to their citations, some also had their cars towed.
In addition to citizen complaints, Richards said, the sting was planned after patrol officers in the area began to notice more prostitution in the area. As they noticed more prostitutes walking the beat, they made requests for the special team that eventually conducted the sting.
Although reports of prostitution appeared to drop after the sting, Richards said, it wasn’t clear just how much of a limiting effect it would have on the world’s oldest profession in Ventura.
“How long is the question,” he said. “It pretty much slows down, but the time span varies.”