SALINAS, Calif.- Selling sex is big business in some Salinas neighborhoods, including one near Kern Street. Even after undercover police stings, neighbors and business owners said it's a problem that just won't go away.
It's new information on a story we first told you about two weeks ago, when we gave you an exclusive look at an undercover prostitution sting operation with Salinas Police. That night, nine people were fined and two were put in jail for prostitution. We promised to go back to the same neighborhood to see if anything had changed. This time we spoke with business owners and neighbors who said they're still dealing with the prostitution problem everyday.
Car salesman Elias Diaz said these prostitutes aren't afraid to flaunt it.
"They'll actually like show themselves, flash people that are driving by," Diaz said.
Earlier Monday evening, we didn't see any prostitutes out on Kern Street. But once the sun went down, we saw several. Diaz said the problem has been getting worse. He said undercover busts keep them away for about a week, but it's not a permanent fix.
"They'll come back you know because we see them here still everyday," Diaz said.
Two weeks ago, a team of about 15 officers gave me the chance to see what it's like to patrol the hot spots in their first undercover prostitution bust since June. Officers said it's something they don't get to do very often because they're so busy with calls for violent crime. Some neighbors said they've had enough and want police to be more aggressive.
"I think they have to do something different, like they have to be here more often," said neighbor Antonio Mora.
People who work near the neighborhood said it's not unusual to walk down the sidewalk, and see condoms on the ground, on a daily basis. Police said making a bust can be tricky because they need a lot of evidence. Because prostitution is only a misdemeanor charge, women and transvestites, are back on the streets working again within a matter of days. Diaz said customers don't feel comfortable and prefer shopping at his second location in another part of town.
"They tell us, oh is it that place where the hookers are? I'm a little embarrassed, but I'll be like yeah," Diaz said.
Diaz told us sometimes prostitutes will even pretend they're buying a car at his dealership, to avoid being arrested.