Tisha Thompson, Rick Yarborough
A new vice unit is cracking down on prostitution by focusing on the men and their lunch hours. The News4 I-Team reports.
In a motel on a quiet strip of Route 301 in Maryland, there’s a secret lurking behind the door of Room 56.
"Watcha want me to do?" a woman on a pre-paid cell phone asks. "You want everything?"
She’s offering sex for money. "Fifteen minutes? Okay, I charge 60 bucks for 15 minutes."
On another bed, a man posts online ads with the woman's phone numbers.
When the men call, the woman promises, "Oh baby, I do it all. You just come and I'll show you what I got."
But what these potential clients find on the other side of the door isn't at all what they expected -- because they just made a date with Prince George's County's new Vice Intelligence Unit.
“It’s a serious crime, buying and selling people,” says Sgt. Dave Coleman, the head of the new unit.
Sgt. Coleman says lunchtime is primetime for prostitution. "Many of the men we arrest are married, so they need an excuse to tell their families. It's a little bit easier during lunchtime and when they're at work to slide out for a little while."
On this day, the lunch rush starts at 11:30 a.m. A chauffeur for a sedan service swinging by during some down time. An electrician on his way to a job. A husband who drove more than hour from Virginia. A man who downs a can of beer before getting out of the car and another who scopes out the place by driving in circles before knocking on the door.
None realizes vice officers are watching through peepholes and listening through doors, waiting for the men to pull out money in exchange for sex.
Officers swarm the men one by one, tackling anyone who tries to fight back.
Once in handcuffs, Sgt. Coleman uncovers a Taser, cash and a lot of lies.
Even though they all initially deny being arrested before, the I-Team found more than half have criminal records for drugs, assault and domestic violence.
The husband from Virginia tells Sgt. Coleman he has sciatica and came for a massage. “We made a mistake?” Sgt. Coleman asks. “We thought you wanted sex but what you wanted was a massage?”
When the husband nods, Coleman heaves the man to his feet and says, “Now do you think that's the first time I've heard that? That's fine, try to stick with that story, the judges love comedy."
Many of the men admit they're married and have done this before.
When Sgt. Coleman asks the electrician, “How long have you been married?” the electrician replies, “Thirty-eight years.”
“Does your wife know you’ve visited in the past?” Coleman asks.
Sgt. Coleman tells the I-Team, “I see a lot of men reaching out for help. They're not afraid of where they're going. They're afraid of where they've been and what brought them to this point."
When the I-Team asks one of the men, “Do you think you did anything wrong in there?" the man quickly answers, “Yeah, by being there.”
We ask, “Do you have any regrets?" he pauses and says, “Yeah, because I should have taken care of my stuff at home."
So many men show up, officers have to stop questioning one when another shows up. Sgt. Coleman says, “It's most certainly not specific to Prince George's County. The only way not to see it in any town across the nation is to not look for it. We started looking for it, saw it was a problem with potential growth and we're trying to get ahead of it."
All of the men arrested during the lunchtime sting face charges for prostitution, and in some cases, resisting arrest. Court records show they are scheduled for trial over the next several weeks.
Just before he’s led away to face a judge, Sgt. Coleman tells the chauffeur, “Prince George’s County is closed for business.”
Spreading the word that any room in this county could be the next Room 56.