Data shows that police target sex workers for arrest but not their male customers

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For Janet Duran, it was just another night of work in Atlantic City.

Data shows that police target sex workers for arrest but not their male customers
Data shows that police target sex workers for arrest but not their male customers

She was having sex in a casino bathroom with a customer — a married man.

Police showed up and placed her under arrest for prostitution, she said. In New Jersey, prostitution is either the offering or accepting of sex in exchange for money. So her customer should have been brought to the station, too.

But that’s not what happened, Duran said.

“He was patted on his back,” she said. “The security guy shook his hand, and they sent him back upstairs to his wife.”

Prostitution can be a thinly veiled cover for heinous criminal acts such as human trafficking, as seen last month with the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on charges of soliciting women in Florida who had been forced into sex.

But in more common cases where women are working the street on their own, the paying customers rarely pay any price at all. It’s usually the sex workers like Duran — typically woman — who face arrest, while the buyers — typically men — are not targeted.

Nearly 70 percent of the 4,715 prostitution-related arrests by New Jersey law enforcement agencies from 2012 through 2016 were of women, according to an analysis of FBI crime statistics.

“It brands you forever,” said Duran, who co-founded New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, a sex worker advocacy group. “You see all the media they put out there when they make a bust, they plaster, you know, our faces and information out there so it becomes public knowledge that, you know, we’ve been busted.”

The numbers are even more striking in some individual departments.

In Atlantic City, where Duran was arrested, women accounted for 84 percent of all prostitution-related arrests. They accounted for 88 percent of arrests in Paterson, and 95 percent — or 280 out of 294 arrests — in Camden.

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