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Hookers have rights, too

by Christa Kraft, staff writer

Has prostitution been legalized? Walking in Waikiki, one would think so. Clear high heels, short skirts and cleavage stretch as far as the eye can see, yet the cops seem to be looking the other way. “Hawai‘i’s economy is based on tourism. The hookers are just another tourist attraction that brings in money,” claims 11-year Waikiki resident Joe Overman. So the question begs to be asked: just who is in bed with whom?


According to police statistics in 2003, 349 arrests were made for prostitution. Of these, 338 were adults and 11 were juveniles. Honolulu Police Officer Eddie Croom explains, “To arrest a prostitute we have to know certain elements. We have to catch her saying exactly what service she will provide and for how much. Simply standing on the corner in an inappropriate outfit is not against the law.”

It seems that there are more prostitutes in Honolulu than other cities, and specifically in Waikiki where many Hawai‘i Pacific University students live. Croom says, “Prostitutes are attracted by the nature of Hawai‘i. It’s a popular tourist spot so lots of people are out looking for a good time and are willing to spend the money since they are on vacation.”

Croom explains that prostitution is based solely on demand and an affective way of stopping it would be to arrest the tourists that create that demand. However, this procedure is unfavorable to police because it disrupts tourists. Most hookers are caught by using undercover cops.

A hotel worker at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani says he sees a prostitute get arrested about once a month. He says the girls don’t approach locals or hotel employees, only vacationers. He has never called the cops because he “knows they can’t do anything.”

The prostitutes themselves seem to have the same attitude. A group of hookers standing outside the hotel called police over for help when they were getting harassed by people on the balconies above. One says if you stay out of a policeman’s way, he’ll stay out of yours. Croom agrees, “Hookers aren’t afraid of cops. They know the laws as well as we do. They’ll come up and talk with us knowing we don’t have any grounds for arrests.”

The paradox will always lie in catching them. Croom says they usually are not bad citizens. They pay their rent on time, they don’t break laws for fear of arrest, and very few violent crimes result from prostitution. Croom says “It appears we’re letting this go on, but we have to abide by the constitution too, and until they give probable cause, they’re just like any other citizen and entitled to rights and protection just like everyone else. We can‘t enforce morals.”



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