By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
With warmer weather creating favorable conditions for the crime, law enforcement agencies in Mercer County said they are stepping up efforts to curb prostitution.
Princeton Police Chief P.V. Powell said his officers are already working on ways to curb prostitution in the downtown area.
“We haven’t had any reports recently, but when the weather starts to break we will typically start getting in more reports,” Powell said. “There is not a lot of major activity in the winter, but as the spring comes in it does happen more often. We have some who travel out of the area for winter and then come back for the spring and summer. We have plans for some enforcement activity that we are working on.”
Powell said complaints from local residents and business-owners are helpful to police investigations of prostitution.
“Once you bust them they will move to other areas or you have to switch tactics,” he said. “We do get complaints from the business owners and the public, especially on Mercer and Thorn streets. People will get approached while they’re walking down the street or parking their car. If anyone has a complaint, please call us and let us know. We will be glad to assist in any way we can.”
Bluefield Police Chief D.M. Dillow said the number of prostitution arrests city officers make tend to go up when the weather gets warmer.
“We haven’t seen much of it yet this year, but we are always monitoring for it,” Dillow said. “The summertime is typically the biggest time for it. They tend to be out when the weather is warmer and not be out when the weather is bad. We prosecuted a lot last year, so hopefully that took care of a lot of the problem. However, if we see it start to crop up again we will arrest and prosecute those involved.”
Dillow said members of the public are the biggest resource in the fight against prostitution.
“Our public is the biggest deterrent,” Dillow said. “If they report the activity they see to us, we can get a better handle on the situation. If our public makes others aware about it and is vigilant with reporting, it makes things a lot easier.
Dillow also had advice for both men and women involved in prostitution.
“Don’t do it,” he said. “It’s not worth getting caught or the embarrassment to yourself and your family.”
Mercer County Sheriff Don Meadows said no reports of prostitution have come in to his department so far this year.
“I haven’t seen any personally this year, and none of our officers have reported any,” Meadows said. “It doesn’t exactly run in cycles, but when the weather is pretty it’s more likely to happen.”
Meadows said heavily traveled roads in more populated areas tend to be where the bulk of prostitution occurs.
“It’s more common in the towns and cities,” Meadows said. “We see a lot in Bluefield, Princeton and Bluewell. A lot of it is on heavily traveled roads like Route 52 and Mercer Street in Princeton. You see a lot of that in areas especially where the traffic has to slow down for a bit.”
Senior Trooper J.M. Ellison with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment said prostitution isn’t as common in the county as it is within city limits.
“It is an issue mainly in the cities, but it is a constant issue,” he said. “You never really get rid of them.”
Ellison said the nature of the crime makes it hard to prosecute.
“Even though it’s constant, it is a hard crime to prove,” Ellison said. “The cities do the majority of the stings. It happens all over, but it’s hard to prove. You have to set up stings. You have to have witnesses willing to come forward or to do surveillance of an area. You have to prove that they were performing these acts for money. It can be difficult.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org