Middletown prostitution sting nets 11 arrests

Sting was in response to complaints from residents and downtown businesses.


40 million: Number of prostitutes worldwide at work at this given moment

1 million: Number of prostitutes in U.S.

80,000: Number of U.S. citizens arrested a year for soliciting sex

$200 million: Cost to taxpayers in court and jail fees per year for prostitution arrests

$14.6 billion: Revenues from prostitution industry in U.S.

8: Where Ohio ranked nationally in 2010 for prostitution-related arrests

Sources: Various (majority from findingjustice.org)

11 arrests made in undercover sting

During an undercover prostitution sting, the Middletown Division of Police arrested 10 women and one man for soliciting in downtown Middletown from June 11-27, said Sgt. David Birk, who oversaw the operation. The sting, he said, was in response to complaints from residents and downtown businesses.

Here are the 11 people who were arrested:

Letitia Busby

Age: 50

Charged with: Prostitution

Brenda Grubb

Age: 53

Charged with: Prostitution

Terri Davis

Age: 57

Charged with: Prostitution twice

Amy Barker

Age: 35

Charged with: Solicitation, summons for failure to make tax return

Amanda Sundberg

Age: 26

Charged with: Solicitation and warrant for failure to pay fines

Deborah Taylor

Age: 30

Charged with: Solicitation, obstructing official business and drug paraphernalia

Carol Wallace

Age: 31

Charged with: Prostitution

Amber Flack

Age: 27

Charged with: Prostitution

Amber Neff

Age: 26

Charged with: Prostitution, drug abuse/crack cocaine, possession of drug instruments and drug paraphernalia

Michelle Steinspring

Age: 35

Charged with: Prostitution

Geronimo Johnson

Age: 27

Charged with: Solicitation

Eleven people were charged with sex offenses by Middletown police officers during a solicitation sting that ended Thursday afternoon in downtown.

One woman, Terri Lee Davis, 57, the oldest of those arrested, was charged with prostitution twice, just three days apart, and both times she was seen flagging down a client in a Central Avenue business parking lot.

Sgt. David Birk, who oversaw the operation, said it was performed because of complaints from Middletown residents and downtown businesses. He labeled the sting “a success,” though he admitted many of the women will be back on the streets in a few days.

Birk said prostitution stings are conducted about twice a year and said the illegal activity is “a never-ending battle.”

Of the 10 women arrested, two were also charged with drug-related crimes, which shows the connection between prostitution and addictions, Birk said. He said all of them have been charged with prostitution before. In fact, according to the police reports, the 10 women have been charged with soliciting or attempted soliciting a combined 35 times and for 48 drug offenses.

Birk said there are so many repeat offenders because traditionally prostitutes don’t have high school diplomas, they’re addicted to drugs and soliciting “is the only thing they can do.”

The women arrested were: Letitia Busby, 50, of Pearl Street; Terri Lee Davis, 57, of Curtis Street; Deborah Sue Taylor, 30, of Manchester Avenue; Amanda Sundberg, 26, of Eleventh Avenue; Amy Michelle Barker, 35, of North Avenue; Michelle Steinspring, 35, of Columbia Avenue; Amber Neff, 26, of Woodside Boulevard; Brenda Grubb, 53, of Charles Street; Amber Flack, 27, of Baltimore Street; Carol Wallace, 41, of Manchester Avenue; and Geronimo Johnson, 27, of Manchester Avenue.

Jackie Phillips, Middletown’s health commissioner, said she’s never met a prostitute who wanted to sell their body. They do it out of “desperation,” she said.

That, she said, only adds to a prostitute’s poor lifestyle choices. They don’t practice safe sex and that leads to infectious diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Prostitution can be a violent profession, she said.

“They will do anything to get from Point A to Point B,” she said. “Anything.”

Judge Mark Wall, of the Middletown Municipal Court, said he sees many of the same faces in his courtroom on prostitution charges. First-time offenders are sentenced to 30 days in jail, given a mandatory HIV test and provided assistance from social agencies. But he rarely sees a prostitute just once.

“This is very frustrating,” he said. “We try to get them out of what I call ‘the swamp.’ But they usually jump right back into it.”

He called their stories, which usually include some type of childhood abuse, “the saddest of the sad.”

Wall said the $20 cost of oral sex the women are accused of offering, is about the cost of one hit of heroin. When the price of the drug increases, so does the cost of the sex, he said.

Prostitution can also be costly to downtown businesses. Owners said prostitutes have been known to drive away business, and they can give downtown “a dirty” image.

Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, called the arrests “a step in the right direction” and he applauded the efforts of the police and the business community. He doesn’t want prostitution, or any illegal activity, to be a “deterrent” for people coming downtown.

He said the chamber is there to create “a positive business environment” for all the businesses.

Jeff Huntsbarger, who owns Ted’s Rental, 1619 Central Ave., thanked the police department for cleaning up downtown of illegal activity. He said there was a time when prostitutes would dance against light poles on the corners, then sit on the sidewalk, flagging down potential clients.

“They seem to have moved to a different area,” he said.

Birk said the prostitution sting was concentrated in the downtown area, between Verity Parkway and University Boulevard and the streets just off Central Avenue. He said the department had the most success during lunch hours.

During those hours, members of the Middletown Police Special Operations Unit were flagged down by women who offered to perform sex for between $20 to $40. Then a marked police cruiser was called and the arrest was made.

Two women were arrested for prostitution on June 11, three on June 12, and six more on June 14, Birk said.

On Thursday, an undercover female police officer walked downtown, and while she drew much attention from potential Johns, only one man, Geronimo Johnson, 27, of 1800 block of Manchester Avenue, offered to pay for sex, Birk said. Johnson was riding a bike and he told the officer he had $160 on him.

Birk said the jail mug shots of the prostitutes show the damage caused by the drugs and lifestyle.

“The abuse takes over,” he said. “They become shells of themselves.”

About the Author