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Police: Sex workers are being targeted in St. Louis shootings, robberies

Two women were shot late Thursday

ST. LOUIS — Sex workers have been the target of shootings and burglaries, prompting the St. Louis police department to issue a public safety alert Friday.

Around 10:20 p.m. Thursday, police responded to the 4500 block of Adelaide and found a 28-year-old woman who had been shot in the face, according to a preliminary police report.

A 5 On Your Side photojournalist reported seeing police vehicles surrounding a gas station. The woman was taken to the hospital, where her vitals were stable. She was not able to provide a statement to the police due to her injury.

Then, around 11:45 p.m., police found a woman dead on the sidewalk on the 3800 block of West Florissant, which is about half a mile from the scene on Adelaide. The woman appears to be in her 30s.

Police are also investigating robberies that happened last month.

A man who goes by the name of "D" met women on Cote Brilliante Avenue on Aug. 17. He had contacted the women for consensual sex using the MegaPersonals dating app. After meeting them, he robbed them. 

All of these incidents happened on the city's north side.

Indigo Haan is the Director of Sex Workers Outreach Project St. Louis.

The goal is to advocate rights and safety for sex workers and to decriminalize the job.

In reaction to this news, Haan says, "This is horrifying to hear. Unfortunately, this is nothing new to our community. Sex workers are endangered because of laws that criminalize sex work," Haan says. "It makes it harder for them to report violence and seek support when it is happening. How can you become a victim when you are being treated as a criminal?"

They explain the stigma perpetuates the violence.

"The stigma that assigns sex workers as some natural target of violence, some how they are dirtier or less worthy of safety love and protection then other citizens needs to stop," they add. 

Haan denounces the violence happening and wants more awareness to come to the surface.

Haan explains, "Sex work is work and sex workers just like in any other industry deserves to work under safe conditions. The more we as a community affirm that sex work is work and sex workers deserve the same rights and safety, the safer they are and the safe that we all are."

For anyone needing assistance, the T is a "Community of Health" focused on reducing the impact of trauma in the St. Louis region. 

Credit: Dr. Laurie Punch

If you have any information about any of the incidents, you are asked to call 911 or CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).

Resources for crime victims:

If you have been a victim of a crime or know someone who has been, 5 On Your Side has compiled a list of resources.

Better Family Life is a nonprofit community development organization working to “stabilize inner-city neighborhoods.” One aspect of its mission is a gun violence de-escalation program.

To learn more, call 314-381-8200 or visit https://www.betterfamilylife.org/

Life Outside of Violence “helps those harmed by stabbing, gunshot or assault receive the treatment, support and resources they need to find alternatives to end the cycle of violence.”

To learn more, call 314-327-6697 or email: ProjectLOV@WUSTL.edu

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis has an anti-crime program called “Safety Net for Youth Initiative,” which is a joint partnership between and Saint Louis Public Schools to provide services to at-risk youth.

To learn more, visit https://www.ulstl.com/anti-crime-initiative.html

Cure Violence is an international organization that has recently launched in a handful of St. Louis neighborhoods. Violence interrupters are trained to deescalate violent situations within their own communities. To learn more, visit https://cvg.org/