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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Arizona State School of Social Work, Phoenix Police Team Up to Fight Prostitution

April 25, 2012
It was just before 6 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, and a broad coalition of police and social workers at the Bethany Bible Church activity center buzzed about the imminent arrival of prostitutes. Dozens of women would move through the center over the next two days, hauled in by police who arrested the prostitution suspects in undercover operations. Yet each would be given the opportunity to avoid a conviction by successfully completing a diversion program that is the result of a unique collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department and Arizona State University's School of Social Work. The goal is simple: Get prostitutes off the streets and in touch with social-service providers as soon as possible. By 7:15 a.m. last Thursday, officers had made contact with their first woman, who was picked up in an undercover operation near 21st and Glenrosa avenues. Between 6 a.m. Thursday and 12 a.m. Saturday, more than 100 volunteers worked with 71 women, one man and four transgender suspects. The ages ranged from 19 to 55 years old. ASU professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz spearheaded Project Rose's first attempt last September and found the early results encouraging, with nearly 30 percent of the eligible suspects completing the diversion program. While volunteers worked last week with prostitution suspects, undercover investigators patrolled the Internet looking for activity and patrol officers saturated the streets looking for more. Detectives collected as much information as possible from those arrested to try to develop larger criminal cases against the people responsible for putting the suspects to work.