Police Say Prostitution Does Exist On Coast

A Gulfport street corner is not where you'll find prostitutes flagging down potential customers.

Pat Pope is Gulfport's chief of detectives. "We don't have a red light district so to speak," Pope said. "Ours is more discreet, more over the phone, making arrangements for dates, that sort of thing."

When Pope's department goes after alleged prostitutes, he said it reaches for a phone book and reads the escort ads. He read one of the ads. "Discreet, sophisticated, professional," it said. It illicited this comment from the detective, "Come on, give me a break."

In the yellow pages, 36 escort companies have ads with Harrison County phone numbers. "The escort service operate under the guise of legitimacy," Pope said. "But a lot of them are simply fronts for prostitution."

Pope said that last year, Gulfport made 18 prostitution arrests simply by asking escort services to send girls to locations where undercover officers were waiting. Six arrests have already been made this year. As many as 12 alleged prostitutes have been jailed in Biloxi.

Gulfport police officers don't focus on prostitution cases very often because Pope said they take time and manpower away from more violent criminal cases.

"We'll do an operation for awhile and make some arrests just basically to keep our name in the game as far as keeping a lid on it to a degree," Pope said. "But honestly it's not our top priority."

The most recent Gulfport prostitution case came off the Internet. Pat Pope said his officers checked into an escort service web site. According to the detective, the on line service sold more than an escort. He said it sold sex from a Gulfport prostitute.