Moments later, a woman entered the room wearing "short, tight, red lingerie" and 15 minutes into the massage, they negotiated the price of at least one sex act. It was the second prostitution arrest at Lansing Accupressure Spa in as many months, according to s of police reports obtained by the Lansing State Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. Those reports, along with court records, offer a glimpse into prostitution and sex trafficking in Greater Lansing, an issue shoved into the spotlight by the March 14 arrest of longtime Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III on multiple prostitution-related charges.
One woman arrested at the spa last year was from Florida.
The other told police she was from Korea originally but had moved to Lansing from Colorado just two days prior. All of those are red flags alling possible human trafficking. Related: Prostitution, trafficking in Michigan 'a widespread phenomenon' Related: Feds say Detroit man enslaved and sold women he called his wives.
Records show the Lansing police investigation ended when the two women pleaded guilty to misdemeanor prostitution charges in 54A District Court.
Prostitution is a low priority for Lansing police. They are more focused on violent crimes and guns, especially since a majority of the sex trade has shifted from street corners to websites such as Back. Yet police would find more if they looked more, said Jeannie Kennedy, an Elsie woman who once was trafficked in Las Vegas and later worked as a prostitute in Michigan. Prostitution is so prevalent here, police were able to arrest 11 men over the course of about six hours in one July sting, according to Lansing police reports.
On any given day, there are dozens of women advertising their "companionship" on the Lansing section of Back. Ingham County prosecution logs, also obtained by a FOIA request, show at least prostitution-related cases have been brought to court sinceeight of every 10 of them from Lansing. In most cases, defendants pleaded to misdemeanor charges. Yet, time and again, women as young as 19 and as old as 56 told police they sold themselves into a dangerous life out of desperation. There was the mother of three who said she sold her body to pay her bills.
Another to support a five-year heroin addiction. The year-old student who said it was the only way she could support herself. The woman who said the trade takes her regularly between Lansing and Lafayette, Indiana.
Related: Putnam: Are prostitutes victims in Dunnings case? Many of the men, who ranged in age from 20 to 63, came from places such as Detroit, Haslett, Leslie and Grand Rapids before being arrested in Lansing police stings. These are people … who have been forced into a life of exploitation.
Her first day there, a man pulled up beside her in a new Mercedes, a pretty girl in the seat next to him, and offered her a ride downtown. First, he took her shopping. Held her hand. Told her she was beautiful. Then, "he loaded me up full of so much cocaine it was disgusting," Kennedy said, and he told her she had to sell her body to repay him. After three days, she reached out to a friend in Michigan, who helped her get home. Over the next several years, she danced at strip clubs and continued selling sex until about three years ago, when she found religion and left prostitution for good.
They often need therapy to address trauma and reclaim a sense of self.
They may need help with addiction. They often need help with housing and employment, because pimps or traffickers controlled their income. But there are needs specific to prostitution and trafficking. Erin Roberts, executive director at the End Violent Encounters shelter in Lansing, said her organization was only recently funded by the state to provide some services to sex assault victims. But her shelter is limited to domestic violence victims because of strings attached the dollars that pay for it.
Emmons, the state senator, said police agencies need more money and training, especially in digital investigations.
And Avery said shelters need to work more on coordinated data collection, to measure the scope of the problem. Social media has created an international targeting ground where young women and men are wooed, coerced or threatened.
Men who could never bring themselves to drive down Kalamazoo Avenue might be willing to place an order online, where women are sold alongside car parts and collectibles. A year-old woman with a years-long heroin addiction took a cab to a south Lansing hotel on a Saturday night in July After she was arrested, the woman told police she was from Howell but moved to Lansing a week earlier. She had a friend she referred to as a pimp or manager, who took half her profits. In the span of a few hours at the hotel that night, police made three arrests, all women.
She cried while talking with police. She became visibly upset during the interview with police, according to the report. She started to cry. She told police she uses the website everyone uses.
Two women told police they had pimps, according to the reports. Merritt said follow-up investigation was done, but didn't lead to additional arrests. Follow-up investigations weren't mentioned in the reports obtained by the State Journal, and Merritt said they aren't usually included in reports from sting operations. But Merritt said undercover police are "on a mission to get the girl that came," and follow-up investigations rarely net any additional charges.
Supposed pimps will deny knowing the women. It becomes a "he said, she said" situation.
But Roberts, of EVE, said people rarely prostitute themselves without something — drugs, poverty, abuse — hanging over their he. Police do respond to community complaints. The reports show Lansing officers conducted 14 street stings, three online stings and three stings at businesses such as Lansing Accupressure over the last three years. Posing as prostitutes and johns, undercover police work almost exclusively along Kalamazoo Street, an area known as "the stroll" for the women frequently walking there.
In those stings, police picked up a man who was apparently deaf and negotiated a sex deal by writing on a clipboard. Another offered to meet an undercover officer on a street corner near a bar. They picked up a woman who wanted to do the deed in a cemetery and another who gave an undercover officer directions to her home.
For online stings, add the cost of at least two hotel rooms for a night. Prosecution logs show many women reoffend shortly after pleading in court. Grand Rapids prostitutes craigslist year after Lansing police used the Super 8 in south Lansing for an online prostitution sting, a year-old girl waited in Room for a man to come and pay her for sex. Three Lansing people were later convicted.
Two were sentenced in state court. The ringleader, Christopher Bryant, was sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids. Bryant and the mother of his child went to Arizona to start a new life. He was violent, but the woman stayed because she loved him. But on the Greyhound trip to Phoenix, he yelled and cussed.
Once they got to the city, he told her to walk the streets. Dunnings, the prosecutor, turned a blind eye to similar horrors while paying multiple women for sex over several years, Attorney General Bill Schuette alleged. The head of that ring, Tyrone Smith, will be sentenced in federal court May Knowing that every woman walking the streets or posting salacious online could be living through such hell is one of the most important weapons in the battle against trafficking, said Kennedy, the former prostitute. Everyone should learn the s of trafficking, individuals should learn how they might be vulnerable and how to make themselves less so.
Contact Matt Mencarini at or mmencarini lsj. Follow him on Twitter MattMencarini.
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