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A sex worker, one of many in Newark, walks along Sherman Avenue. In Newark, women were 2. For Janet Duran, it was just another night of work in Atlantic City. She was having sex in a casino bathroom with a customer — a married man.
Police showed up and placed her under arrest for prostitution, she said. In New Jersey, prostitution is either the offering or accepting of sex in exchange for money. So her customer should have been brought to the station, too. Prostitution can be a thinly veiled cover for heinous criminal acts such as human trafficking, as seen last month with the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on charges of soliciting women in Florida who had been forced into sex.
But in more common cases where women are working the street on their own, the paying customers rarely pay any price at all. Nearly 70 percent of the 4, prostitution-related arrests by New Jersey law enforcement agencies from through were of women, according to an analysis of FBI crime statistics. The numbers are even more striking in some individual departments.
In Atlantic City, where Duran was arrested, women accounted for 84 percent of all prostitution-related arrests. They accounted for 88 percent of arrests in Paterson, and 95 percent — or out of arrests — in Camden. Other police officials defend the practice as a lifeline to women in desperate situations who need help. The criminal record makes it harder to find jobs and housing, reinforcing a cycle of homelessness, said Meredith Dank, research professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Kurt Fowler, a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, said sex workers want nothing to do with police, even if they have been the victims of assault or needed other help. In many communities, who the police arrest depends a lot on the type of operation. In South Hackensack, a small town near a major highway with several motels, Capt. Robert Kaiser said every situation is different. From through , the township reported 73 prostitution-related arrests, about 70 percent of which were women. Departments sometimes use female officers to go undercover as sex workers to target buyers.