By Talia Kaplan
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - People living and working on South Broadway in the Patch neighborhood say prostitutes have been taking over the street, and St. Louis City police say they are cracking down.
Officers say the recent uptick is mostly on Broadway, south of Bates Street.
"Well recently there has been an upsurge in the number of women that have been walking the streets. Standing on the streets, and jumping in passing pickup trucks and cars and then they would return to the same intersection 20 minutes later and then jump into another vehicle, so it's obvious there is commerce going on," said Steven DeBellis, a South St. Louis Resident.
"I have seen as high as three or four of them at one time in just these two blocks," said Bud Reed, a south St. Louis resident.
Residents and business owners say they are noticing more prostitutes on South Broadway than ever before. People say they're frustrated with the surge in prostitution along the busy street.
Police say most prostitutes work to support a drug habit, usually heroin, and are attracted to the street because of the high traffic volume. The problems reach into side streets and parks including South Broadway Square Park. One resident says she found needles in the park and for that reason she would never take her kids there.
Alderman Tom Villa organized a meeting a couple of weeks ago to discuss the issue, and more than 100 people showed up. Since then police have been cracking down, increasing patrols, and performing undercover details.
"Driving up and down Broadway, which I do more than a couple times a week, I just don't see the activity that I did a couple of weeks ago. I think if they continue to get arrested and continue to get moved on, they are going to move somewhere else and that is what we are hoping for," said Alderman Villa.
There is also a spike in prostitution on South Grand between Chippewa and Meramec Streets, and police are continuing to crack down there too. In the past two weeks they made close to 20 arrests and have charged the alleged prostitutes with "street demonstrations".
Despite the arrests, police say this is a hard problem to fix. They are now going to begin targeting Johns, and are looking into the legality of publishing their names.