‘Breaking Free’ from prostitution: BC police partner with organization to refer victims, offenders
By Katy Zillmer
Brooklyn Center police partner with St. Paul organization to refer victims, offenders
Brooklyn Center police are investigating four cases of prostitution at the Days Inn and Suites and Super 8 hotels in late November.
Sgt. Steve Pastor said there were arrests at both hotels after staff from the department conducted routine enforcement of the crime or received tips from hotel employees on Nov. 27 and 28.
Brooklyn Center has nine hotels, Pastor said, and most are concentrated close to Interstate 694/94.
The Days Inn and Suites and Super 8 are both located in the 6400 block of James Circle North, also near the highway.
Pastor, a 12-year employee of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, said they are working to enforce and prevent prostitution and related crimes such as narcotics dealing and robbery in partnership with hotel management and law enforcement from other cities.
“When you look at the associated crime that can happen with it, it’s a huge problem,” Pastor said. “For the young women who are in this world who are being promoted, they might see $5 of $200 because they are referred into the world through narcotics or violence,” he said.
The goal of the partnerships is not to just “push” the crime from one city to the next, he said.
The police department also provides resources to individuals arrested for a first-time prostitution offense with the help of the St. Paul organization, Breaking Free.
“We work with Breaking Free to refer females to them, without a criminal record, to get education … and a job,” Pastor said.
The police department also refers men to Breaking Free for a one-day education program from law enforcement, attorneys, health professionals and even victims.
Getting help early
The organization’s partnership with law enforcement, such as the Brooklyn Center Police Department, helps its clients with a first-time offense have the opportunity to start over without the barriers of a criminal record, said Breaking Free Executive Director and Founder Vendnita Carter.
“Many women don’t realize that they do have choices and the help to have doors to open and other chances to change their lifestyle,” Carter said.
In the last 16 years, Breaking Free has served more than 5,000 clients and reached more than 22,000 people through street outreach, according to its website.
Brooklyn Center police do watch the cases of people referred to Breaking Free and would press charges if they don’t complete the program, according to Pastor.
But that doesn’t happen in most cases.
Since July 2011, 61 people have been arrested in Brooklyn Center for prostitution cases, he said. “And the majority of those results in no prosecution due to diversion,” he said.
The police department also provides resources about Breaking Free to multiple-time offenders, but proceeds with criminal charges, Pastor said.
Breaking Free’s overall mission is to educate its clients, law enforcement, medical professionals, educators and the community about sexual exploitation of women and girls while providing continued services to victims and survivors.
One of the primary services that helps Breaking Free clients get back on their feet is housing, Carter said. “Women, whether they are arrested, found on the street or referred from another organization, the big problem is housing and they need affordable housing,” she said.
Breaking Free works with between 400 and 500 women and children per year, Carter said. At least 1,000 men arrested for soliciting prostitution have completed the one-day program and less than 10 were arrested again, she said.
‘It’s making a difference’
In Brooklyn Center, Sgt. Pastor said the enforcement efforts by the police department were a wake-up call to him that prostitution is a widespread problem.
“Over the last two years, we’ve been routinely enforcing it with details on a monthly basis and through patrol,” Sgt. Pastor said. “It’s making a difference, I think.”
The four cases from late November are still under investigation by the police department.
• Nov. 27, at the Days Inn and Suites, 6415 James Circle North
A 21-year-old female was arrested for prostitution in a public place, which is a gross misdemeanor, Pastor said. The woman had a record and will receive charges, but the department did provide information about Breaking Free to her.
• Nov. 28, at the Super 8 hotel, 6645 James Circle North
A 23-year-old female was arrested for engaging in prostitution and a 24-year-old male was arrested for promotion of prostitution shortly after 6 p.m. The police department continued to work on the case last week and to determine if the two individuals are repeat offenders, Pastor said.
Another adult female was arrested for a prostitution charge about an hour later at the Super 8. “This is the first time she has gotten caught, or the first time she has offended,” Pastor said. The woman was referred to Breaking Free and will not be charged if she works through the program, he said.
There were several more arrests shortly after 8:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Super 8.
One female was arrested for prostitution in a public place and possession of cocaine; and two females were arrested for promotion of prostitution and possession of cocaine.
“They will be prosecuted and referred to Breaking Free services,” said Pastor.