If this were any other street corner, she might look like a lost farm girl. She wants a date. A forest-green Ford Explorer slows, and the driver nods at her.
A gold cross dangles from a chain just above the black, zipper-front sports bra that she wears all the time. Her stomach edges over the waist of her tight jean shorts.
Darlene knows that she could end up in an abandoned house or floating in the Missouri River. She has been in the Northeast drug trade for 15 years as a user and a dealer and has been selling sex for seven.
Most patrol cops know her by sight, if not by her first name. Some neighbors call whenever she walks past. The Explorer stops back at Ninth and Benton, and Darlene gets out. Her brown, wavy hair is fixed into a ponytail that sits high on her head and makes her ears stick out. She has a gaptoothed smile, and the bridge of her nose is scarred from when a man bashed her with brass knuckles a few years ago. She makes her way down Benton toward the 7-Eleven on Independence Avenue to refill on ice.
Ten minutes later, a tan Chevy Tahoe creeps past, and the driver als with his hand. Independence Avenue is known for its drugs and prostitutes.
Over the past two years, though, neighbors have noticed things getting worse. Inthe Kansas City Police Department made prostitution-related arrests. This year, police are on pace to make arrests, nearly a 20 percent increase from Royster is a former Navy and commercial pilot who shakes hands with a death grip. He says he likes the fact that the neighborhood is an amalgam of cultures and classes. And he hates the gangsters, dealers, addicts, pimps and streetwalkers.
Early last year, Royster started talking to police, prosecutors, judges and politicians about a drug- and prostitution-fighting effort called Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution and Stay Out of Drug Areas. Royster says he had seen a similar program work in Seattle. Known drug dealers and known drug users exited. Kansas City police tried something similar in the s.
Such a change would require a vote of the Missouri General Assembly. Royster is running for the seat currently held by Rep. John Burnettwho will be out in Local Sluts Missouri to term limits.
It would also give police the ability to make arrests on sight, which is troubling to some observers. City Prosecutor Beth Murano and Maj. In a break from national trends, police here have arrested more johns than sex workers since That year, police made arrests for patronizing johns and arrests for solicitation sex workers. Inthere were for patronizing and for solicitation. Brad Dumit of the vice squad. Most people only see the streets.
In July, years of pent-up anger spilled out at a community meeting at St. Anthony Catholic church on Benton. So many people showed up that organizers had to move the meeting from the basement to the sanctuary. As Murano worked through her PowerPoint presentation, defining prostitution and its causes, one man popped off in frustration.
Later he apologized and explained himself to the crowd.
They see the prostitutes walking by the window. I had to buy the house next door to get rid of the prostitutes. Lots of people have stories like that. Highway 71 and the Independence Avenue ramps.
Little is here but netless soccer goals and human-sized sleeping spots cleared out of the hedge. Darlene makes a beeline for a wide stone stairway-to-nothing at the far edge, climbs halfway up and sits. Inshe slept and smoked under trucks in the yard behind the Royale Inn on Paseo.
When the rain came, the addicts and sex workers who lived in the truck lot hung a blue tarp to stay dry. Her pay was dope, hotel rooms and the promise of adventure. She was 32 at the time, which made her two decades older than most girls when they start. Though she mostly remembers the good times growing up, long-timers in the neighborhood say her mother worked the same streets that Darlene does now.
By the time she was 10, Darlene and her siblings were moving in and out of foster homes. She dropped out of Hickman Mills High School when she got pregnant her junior year. She came to prostitution late but arrived with a decade-long crack addiction.
She was hard-bitten, hetrong, instinctive and only too willing to get into a scrap. She has rules of engagement.
Those rules keep her safe. Darlene walks along the high barbed-wire fence surrounding the truck lot, to the corner of Lydia and Admiral. There, between a motel and a mosque, she turned her first few nervous tricks. Then life started to take on a new rhythm. But as long as she had crack, life was OK. She went on like this until the night when a muscular security guard stopped his van in front of her. She hopped in, and they drove to a spot he said he knew.
After their date, when she was putting her pants back on, the man pulled out his black. When he drove off, she started walking back to the trucks. She was bloody, and her clothes were torn. A passer-by picked her up. He wanted to take her to the emergency room or call the police.
Just take me back up to the avenue. But dates mean dope. Three weeks after the. Most working girls deal with the threat of imprisonment the way clock punchers put up with an annoying co-worker or a long commute. Last November, she was one of the women arrested.
After she got in a fight with her husband, Ray an out-of-work ex-con who relies on Darlene to keep them in food and cigarettesshe hit the street to get crack money — and violated her rule about tricking with strangers. The undercover cop was a fine-looking man with gold on every finger. Around his neck was a thick gold chain with a gold dollar- medallion.
Sitting on the curb with the plastic handcuffs on tight, Darlene heard one of the girls talking. Sometimes jail is a vacation — three hots and a cot. More often, women are arrested for disorderly conduct, trespassing, possession of a crack pipe or jaywalking, which are city-ordinance violations and equivalent to traffic tickets.
With only beds in the municipal lockup — and police prioritizing violent crimes — women who do spend the night in jail are usually back on the street and doing their thing the next morning. The cops can stop and question women who seem suspicious to them, but in the absence of tools like Local Sluts Missouri and SODA, law enforcement amounts to chasing women from street to street.
But the girls know how that works, too. When Darlene got caught, the Jackson County judge looked at her good record of making court dates, then took a 3-inch stack of offenses and reduced it to two charges. She pleaded guilty to solicitation for immoral purposes and possession of narcotic equipment and got two years of unsupervised probation — she was to do no drugs, no hooking. She was back on the street the next day.
The same thing happened inwhen she was arrested for charges involving prostitution and drugs. InDarlene missed a court date and got 33 days in the Municipal Correctional Institution.
She detoxed, started treatment for her crack addiction, went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and started counting sober time. She stayed clean for nine months. It was her first extended sobriety since she had been a teenager, but like addicts say, the streets are always only one hit away. Darlene took the hit. You get the rush, the adrenaline rush that you want.