Cincinnati's oldest profession still thriving

By Dan Wells - bio | email

Note: FOX19's Dan Wells rode along with a Cincinnati Police VORTEX unit in this rare behind-the-scenes look at prostitution in the Queen City.

There's one profession that's not in the dumper because of the economy. In fact, it's the oldest profession around, and it is booming here in the Queen City.

Cincinnati has well-worn laws against prostitution on street corners, but head out to certain parts of the city at night, and you'll find a thriving business.

"I just started my 19th year. There's good times and bad times," said Lt. Paul Neudigate with the Vortex unit with Cincinnati Police. "People are out there looking to make that quick easy buck."

Vortex is a specialized unit that goes into specific neighborhoods, targeting street crime.

"Vortex consist of approximately 40 to 45 officers including supervisors," said Lt. Neudigate. "We are a three tier three prong approach to violent crime."

For years, both Vice and Vortex have tried to tackle Cincinnati's sex trade. They've made hundreds of arrests every year of both men and women.

"We kinda target prostitution," said Neudigate. "When we do our prostitution stings its because there are violent criminals that utilize the service of prostitutes."

Cincinnati police say prostitution is a growth field, despite a slowing economy. Police say they're not surprised by anything.

"That is one of our usuals, she is out here pretty much every night," said Neudigate during the ride along. "Well she's a she, but that is actually a male."

Now, when we drove in Over-the-Rhine on targeted streets like Elm, West McMicken, and Race, we met a woman identified as "Susan" who agree to talk to us about the growing business and what she sees every night.

"There are men that need some type of sexual outlet and it fills a need," she said.

Susan said last summer was her first summer on the streets and she saw three to four guys a day.

"I  made 1,500 bucks a day," she said. "This year there are a lot more girls out here and the price, some girls are desperate they will do it for $5 and a piece of crack, so that makes it hard when you're asking for more money than the girls that are asking for $5 and a piece of crack."

Susan says many of her customers are typically from the Cincinnati suburbs.

"I look for professional white men that don't use any type of drugs that are looking for an outlet that want something discrete and then can go home to their wives," she said.

When asked if it would surprise people how many people come down, Susan said, "I think so. I think that a lot of the men that are married or have wives are in denial about what their husband is doing, because if they aren't getting sex at home they're going to get it somewhere."

Police say even though the sex trade never seems to stop on Cincinnati streets, Vortex officers vow to continue to make hundreds of arrests, targeting both buyers and sellers.

"You say that's its just a job, and you take certain pride in doing a good job and you take pride and making the city safe as much as you can," said Neudigate.

It seems hookers have stepped up their game, moving away from conventional street solicitation and going more high tech.

Police say prostitutes will now even hand prospective clients a business card, or an e-mail or Web site address written on it, where they can make their "dates," making it harder for Vice officers to control the sex trade.