Police arrest four on suspicion of prostitution in sting

Police have arrested four women at local hotels on prostitution charges and are planning future stings to root out women who are offering sexual services for money.

San Carlos saw a rise in prostitution about six months ago when local police cracked down on sex workers in neighboring cities such as Redwood City</a>, said police Chief Greg Rothaus. The suspects are typically women who advertise their services online and arrange to meet clients in hotels, police said.

Within that period of six months, San Carlos police have arrested La-Tisha Evans, 22, of Phoenix, Ariz., along with three other women who had prostitution-related arrest warrants from other Bay Area cities: Rebecca Howlett, 30, of Los Angeles; Janis Burkhardt, 29, of Hollywood; and Blossom Smith, 23, of Daly City, said San Carlos Police Sgt. Mark Robbins.

“They’re not visible on street corners anymore,” San Carlos police Cmdr. Rich Cinfio said. “We periodically check Craigslist to see if they’re listing San Carlos as a location and we check motels to see if there’s any specific activity.”

As part of its current crackdown, the police department is planning a decoy sting — though they couldn’t say when — in which undercover officers will meet with sex workers in the hopes of making further arrests, Cinfio said.

Such arrests can uncover a multitude of criminal activity, including narcotics, violence against the sex worker, or suspects who have warrants or who are on probation, Robbins said.

In Redwood City, keeping tabs on such activity is an ongoing priority, said Capt. Chris Cesena.

“It’s part of our everyday job — we average anywhere from two to four arrests per month,” typically at hotels along El Camino Real, Cesena said.

It’s unclear what impact, if any, the activity has on hotel business.

“Guests may feel there’s too much traffic [to the rooms], or there’s something going on in the room,” said a manager at the Homestead Studio Suites in San Carlos, who asked to remain anonymous. “I just tell them I’m going to call the cops, and they usually leave.”

Cesena points out that prostitution is less an epidemic and more of a constant enforcement issue. But modern technology doesn’t help, Robbins said.

“There’s a lot of stuff our society has created that helps them, from prepaid cell phones to Craigslist and UPS stores,” Robbins said. “It’s easier for people to become anonymous and still maintain contact.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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