Written by Betsy Abraham Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00
Undercover detectives are cracking down on prostitution in Westbury. According to detectives, Lauren Regan, 26, of Valley Stream, and Annie Cruz, 25, of Long Beach, offered to engage in a sexual act with an undercover detective for an agreed upon amount of money while in a Westbury motel. Both defendants were placed under arrest without incident. An hour later, Korah John, 22, of Westbury, was arrested at the same hotel on the same charges. A month ago, two Rhode Island women were also arrested for prostitution in a Carle Place motel. Deputy Inspector Kevin Smith said prostitution is a problem all over the tri-state area, and that a majority of the arrests made in Nassau County are not local residents.
“These people come from all over the country, because they think it’s more affluent and they can make more money here,” Smith said.
Smith notes the increase in ads on online networks, which make references to coming to Nassau County. These ads often feature scantily clad women who say they’re offering massages.
“They’re not selling pain relief or massage therapy. They’re selling sex. It’s obvious,” Smith said. “Years ago, you would see street walkers. You don’t see that as much now. The new street corner is the internet.”
Smith said that using undercover detectives has been the department’s most effective method so far for finding out about illegal prostitution, which often takes place in massage parlors or hotels. They also rely heavily on calls and tips from community members and hotel owners.
“It’s well hidden all over the United States. If you don’t look for it, you won’t find it. We want the community to be our eyes and ears and let us now if they think something’s going on,” Smith said.
One Westbury hotel manager says that she stays in constant contact with the police department if there is suspicious activity. She said that there are about two such incidences every weekend. The hotel has increased security at check-in, no longer taking cash to reserve a room and always checking identification when presented with a credit card.
“As soon as we tell them we don’t tolerate any illegal activity, they know,” she said.
While many think that prostitution is a victimless crime, Smith said that is not always the case. There have been cases of abuse, robberies, drugs and a whole host of crimes.
Smith says that while it is important to stop prostitution in Nassau County, the process is about a lot more than putting people behind bars.
“I don’t think there’s any 12-year-old who grows up to say they want to be a prostitute. We understand that some of these people are victims themselves. Some of them are hardened into what they do, some of them just ended up in this trade. We’re not social workers, but if the arrest process can take them to a point where they can get help or out of the business, that’s a good thing,” Smith said.