Pimps and prostitutes are being pulled off the streets On Parkway Avenue off Highway 99 in Fresno. It's a part of an undercover operation that is also targeting motels; police are calling it "Operation Inn Keeper."
There are two goals. The first is to clear the streets immediately by making arrests; the second is to target motels in the area to make sure they don’t give the girls a place to stay.
It’s a crackdown on one of the oldest professions known to man. It’s an illegal business growing in Fresno. “Do I get to keep it all or give it all to you?” says a woman through a fence. The man on the street answering “I’m not stingy you know what I mean?” The exchange is the beginning of a proposition for prostitution, but the woman isn't really looking for business. It's an undercover sting.
The month long sweep has cuffed 35 men and women for prostitution related crimes
On the street the wired agent is still talking with “johns”. “It's a cop? Yea, he's over dressed for Fresno.”
In Fresno there's a main strip; police say a lot of activity happening up and down Parkway Avenue—human trafficking and prostitution. Police saying the avenue is becoming more violent. “We're learning the pimps are tied to different gangs in Fresno and up and down the state,” says Fresno Police Sgt. Greg Noll.
Pimps aren't the only problem on Parkway; investigators now shifting their focus to the motels. “Do you have books available?” asked Noll inside one of the motels. “Can take a look at it?” Fresno police are in the middle of “Operation Inn Keeper”. “We are making sure owners aren't renting to prostitutes in the area,” says Noll.
Some managers admitted to letting prostitutes stay for business. “The owner says he can’t survive without them,” says a woman down Parkway Avenue. They may let them stay but all motel owners know it’s illegal. Police say if motels don’t stop catering to the crime they’ll slap them with thousands of dollars in fines. “We are not tolerating the business along the area catering to prostitutes,” says Noll.
The solicitation is hurting business. Organic Fresno opened on Parkway a month ago. “The ‘johns’ are very confrontational,” says Organic Fresno’s owner Tara Hamilton. “They tell me ‘I’m not doing anything wrong’ but I say yes you are you’re on private property and need to leave.”
Motels say more than a dozen prostitutes walk the streets each day and it gets worse at night. Motels add asking them to go isn't easy. “They say [expletive] you’re discriminating me,” says one motel owner. “They have a big fit and ask why are you not renting to me?”
The motels are required to check ID's and keep records. Wired and inside the motel the investigators ask for the records. “How do you know names? There are just credit cards here.”
Motels say it’s sometimes hard to catch the men and women in the act—the john’s rent the room then the prostitutes go in later.
Fresno police hope their presence will close the door on the undercover crime. “We hope something will stop it; it’s been a problem and it’s getting whose every day,” says a motel owner down the strip.
Motels are required by law to eliminate nuisances on their properties. If they cater to prostitution, the first citation will cost $1,000; the second will cost $5,000. If it continues, the fine can escalate to $100,000 a fine.
Over the past month there have been 12 undercover operations. Police say they'll continue to monitor the area as well as the motels.