New City Trick

Judge Jim Sullivan has a different way of dealing with crack whores -- don't just jail them, treat them for their addiction

The outsiders -- people from St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties -- tell the cops they're lost.

Plausible and implausible explanations make it hard for the police to press charges that will stick.

That's why so many prostitutes end up before Sullivan for public drunkenness, street demonstration and not using the sidewalk.

Jill Pearson
Judge Jim Sullivan: "It seemed as though we were missing the boat."
Jennifer Silverberg
Judge Jim Sullivan: "It seemed as though we were missing the boat."

The same kinds of flimsy charges Tammy got hit with.

Sullivan is familiar with the charges, the prostitutes and the police officers. In the past year, the judge began meeting on a monthly basis with Sergeant Terry Sloan. Sloan is a compact, muscular man with 30 years of police work behind him. For the past two years, he has headed up the vice squad.

"I wanted to open a line of communication with the police department," Sullivan says.

"It started out as a prostitute task force, but it has evolved over time into a health task force," Sullivan says, noting that representatives of the city's health department also attend the meetings between Sloan and the judge.

Sloan says police back Sullivan's effort: "I support it 100 percent, and I know all my detectives do," Sloan says.

Officers attend many of the same neighborhood meetings the judge visits, and the department is working on its own initiatives to get prostitutes off homeowners' lawns and johns off the streets and to stop sex acts from being performed in public alleys.

Major Roy Joachimstaler, head of the South Patrol, assembled one sergeant and six officers to form the Neighborhood Response Group, which helps combat so-called quality-of-life crimes. Part of the NRG's mission is to pair with Vice for undercover prostitution stings. Joachimstaler supplies the extra staff for the stings, and Sloan oversees the sweeps, which are made day and night, weekdays and weekends.

At 9:30 on a Thursday morning in August, Sloan drives around in his unmarked car, monitoring the radio transmissions of the detectives working a sting on the near South Side. A bleach-blond woman who appears to be in her midforties waves down an undercover officer driving a dark-red Taurus. She's wearing jean shorts and a lime-green shirt.

The detective stops, and the woman gets in.

Sloan describes what typically happens inside the car.

"They have to ask you what you want -- it's a name-playing game," Sloan says.

"You tell them, 'Yeah, I'm here to party."

"Then they say, 'Well, I'll suck your dick for twenty bucks."

It's critical that the undercover cop doesn't coach the prostitute, Sloan says: "They have to say what they'll give you and the price."

Usually money is what the women want. But they've also asked for food -- a sandwich from a nearby convenience store, even a bucket of chicken from KFC.

"They're gonna judge it by what their needs are," Sloan says. "Do they need a rock? Do they need something to eat?"

After the bargain is made, the detective pulls the car over to the side of the road. That's when another unmarked car, which has been following close behind, turns on its lights. In the car are two detectives, a man and a woman.

The female detective frisks the prostitute. The undercover detective continues playing the part of the john.

After about an hour and two arrests, Sloan calls for a reversal. This time, undercover female detectives, working in a pair, set up on a South St. Louis street.

The women are wired.

Sloan says of the real prostitutes: "Their physical appearance, their hygiene -- they aren't the cleanest people."

A female detective trying to look the part may put on the clothes she mowed the yard in. Sloan has watched as one officer prepared to go out on the street by picking up a handful of dirt and smearing it on her clothes and face before taking her post on a street corner.

The women are bait, and within about fifteen minutes, guys are circling them in vehicles. Some just get a thrill off being around "naughty" girls; others are trying to figure out whether the police are nearby.

Sloan says most of the guys they snare are in their thirties and forties. They even had a 70-year-old guy trying to pick up a hooker.

"It is a crossbreed of every profession, every status," he says. "You have a guy in a Cadillac pull up, a guy in a nice car who obviously has money, nice Rolex watch, nice jewelry, a pocketful of money. Why is he down here, picking up what he thinks is a $10 crack whore on the corner?"

Eventually a car moves in: two men in a white pickup truck, the name of a roofing company prominently displayed on the cab door. The women saunter up to the car door. They want to nab both guys.

The female detectives working this beat can't be prudes, nor can they act shocked. The women have to think fast and respond quickly when asked to perform out-of-the-ordinary sex acts, Sloan explains while simultaneously watching his two detectives banter with the guys in the roofing-company truck.

When one undercover officer was asked by a man and a woman to perform a bizarre sex act with the two of them, Sloan says, the detective didn't miss a beat.

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