Dallas police fight truck stop prostitution with rehabilitation


Thursday, November 8, 2007

By SCOTT GOLDSTEIN / The Dallas Morning News



Dallas police and more than a dozen social service organizations teamed up Wednesday night to combat rampant prostitution at southern Dallas truck stops.


For the second time this year, police and more than 30 volunteers set up a bustling staging area in a lot behind a fast food restaurant along South Lancaster Road near Interstate 20. There, the women were given a choice: commit to a rehabilitation program catering to their needs or face possible jail time for years of criminal activity.


Theresa Frazier (left) talks with volunteers Nora DeWitt and Elizabeth Holland about her options for the future at a staging area on South Lancaster Road near Insterstate 20. The goal of the initiative, launched in October, is to give women caught engaging in prostitution the chance to leave behind a life often dominated by drugs, violence and poor health, police say.


Denessia Coleman, a soft-spoken 46-year-old, said that after 26 years on the streets, she's ready to take the first steps toward changing her life. On Wednesday, she committed to moving to a McKinney shelter for at least two weeks.


"I already know I need some help," the Baltimore native said. "I know I'm going to have to work."


Dallas police have documented more than 800 women who regularly engaged in prostitution in recent years at two truck stops on South Lancaster Road, one on Bonnie View Road and another a short distance away along LBJ Freeway. Mass arrests have failed to curb the problem and associated crimes, police say.


Just as they did last month, officers on Wednesday night deployed to the four targeted truck stops to make prostitution arrests.


They then transported women and some men to the staging area, where they were met by dozens of volunteers. Surrounded by spotlights and portable heaters, the women sat with professionals who determined what services they needed and negotiated terms of potential treatment programs.


A municipal judge was on hand to set probationary terms that for some of the women could ultimately lead to the dismissal of dozens of misdemeanor citations.


After two hours, 14 women some who were arrested and other who sought help voluntarily had visited the staging area. Five of them committed to some form of rehabilitation, surpassing last month's total, officials said.


"We got a lot better results this time because I think we were a lot better prepared," said Sgt. Louis Felini, one of the supervisors of the initiative.