Longview police busted two men suspected of soliciting prostitutes late last week in a sting operation aimed at clamping down on a growing local sex trade, authorities said.
Police have identified at least a dozen local women working as prostitutes, said Sgt. Ray Hartley, who oversees the department's Street Crimes Unit, which ran the sting.
Many of the women, who range in age from their late teens to early 40s, frequent
the area near the corner of Oregon Way and Baltimore Street, he said. Hartley said police suspected last year that one girl who was 16 or 17 was selling sex.
Prostitution has been increasing in prevalence locally in recent years, Hartley said.
"It's pretty common — and it goes hand-in hand with drug addiction," he said. Hartley said many in the community are surprised to "find out we have prostitutes" because local hookers "don't look like the street walkers you would see on a TV show."
The women usually aren't scantily clad, he said. "They just look like women who are down and out. … It doesn't look like the Vegas Strip down there."
Much of the activity is taking place in clients' cars, he said. "They'll drive down California Way or they'll drive down Tennant Way or they'll drive somewhere secluded to do their business," he said.
Arrested in Wednesday's sting were Theodore John Torppa, 69, of Castle Rock on suspicion of patronizing a prostitute and Charles Dean Chambers, 53 of Longview also on suspicion of patronizing a prostitute. Both men were arrested in the Oregon Way area, Hartley said.
Hartley declined to provide many more details about the bust, saying he did not want to give away the department's methods.
"They were cruising the area and picking up girls," he said. "You just never know if you're picking up a prostitute, a police officer or maybe an informant."