Prostitution in Denver: Women busted more than men, punished more harshly

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Women in Denver are arrested for prostitution-related crimes more often than men and are punished more harshly, according to "Who Pays?," a new study by the Denver-based Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. The question of why is still a bit of a mystery, but researchers think it may be tied to perceptions of prostitutes as drug-addicted criminals and johns as regular guys.

One police officer interviewed for the study said johns were typically described as someone with "a wife, two kids, white picket fence and two dogs in the yard."

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The study analyzed 2,072 arrests made by the Denver police between 2006 and 2011, in addition to 735 cases filed in Denver City Court and 121 cases filed in Denver County Court in 2009 and 2010. Funded by the Women's Foundation of Colorado and conducted in the wake of a new law that allows courts to set up so-called "johns schools" for people who solicit prostitutes, the study sought to answer three major questions:

What is the profile of people arrested for buying sex in Denver?

What happens to people charged with prostitution-related offenses?

And what motivates law enforcement to arrest johns?

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There is a prevalent theory that reducing the demand for prostitution -- in other words, deterring johns -- will curb human trafficking, which is defined as forcing or coercing someone to engage in labor or commercial sex.

In Colorado, prostitutes and johns are largely charged with the same crimes; one of the most common is "soliciting for prostitution." Adult males made up 39 percent of arrests, while adult females made up 61 percent. (The study did not examine juvenile arrests.)

Why the disparity? The study found that most arrests are the result of stings in which a male police officer poses as a john. The police also try to do "reverse stings," in which female officers pose as prostitutes in order to catch johns, but the scarcity of female police officers may make those stings harder to conduct.

Flip the page to learn the average age and race of prostitutes and johns.


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