ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the carnies and the rodeo clowns comes a darker side of the State Fair — women from all over the region who sell sex for money.
Albuquerque police say they see an influx of prostitutes during the State Fair, especially those who come from other cities and advertise services online.
“(There are) girls who follow the state fairs knowing that it’s rather profitable, especially in the hotels near the fair,” said Sgt. Jason Peck, who oversees the APD Vice Unit.
Peck said the girls are attracted by the influx of fair workers who buy sex from them.
A five-day Vice Unit sting operation during the past week around the fairgrounds resulted in the arrests of 24 prostitutes, three johns and six pimps, along with 13 felony arrests for drug possession.
Expo New Mexico spokesman Michael Henningsen declined comment for this story.
Almost half of the prostitutes caught in the recent sting had posted services online, Peck said. Police say online prostitution is steadily increasing. Prostitutes online are typically younger and make more money than streetwalking prostitutes, police say.
Police catch prostitutes who advertise online by setting up “dates” with them via the Web and going undercover to meet them at a hotel.
Whether it’s online or on Central, the sex trade continues to thrive in Albuquerque, police say.
In addition to the women who walk the streets, 20 to 30 new women appear each day on backpage.com, a popular website used for sex services. Data for prostitution-related misdemeanors handled in Metro Court have ranged widely in the past decade, but, every year, there are between 300 and 500 cases.
But as popular as Internet prostitution is, the Vice Unit is focusing its efforts on streetwalkers during the State Fair run, Peck said. That’s when detectives see a spike along Central Avenue near the fairgrounds. Next week, they’ll focus on arresting johns, the men who hire prostitutes.
And it’s not just the act of prostitution itself, but the other crimes that come along with it, Peck said.
“Along with prostitution comes drug use, rape, burglaries. It seems the girls know everything (that goes on). By us arresting the girls, we often find larger crimes such as homicide offenders,” Peck said. “Prostitution really has its hands in everything.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal