As a fan of "Overheard in the Newsroom" the following entry brought back a couple memories. First the entry: "#2776: Layout Designer: “When’s that story going to be done?” Crime Reporter: “The one on prostitutes? The research is getting expensive.”
During the 1990s we had a series of homicides involving prostitutes, many of them working on Dort Highway.
My editor, Roger, asked that I go find a prostitute working on the street and see if I could get a comment about whether they were fearful of the recent series of homicides and if they knew any of the working women who had been killed.
So there I was driving north and south on Dort like any regular John looking for a hooker. There were certain spots where they hung out, usually places with an easy access to motorists, like an abandoned store parking lot.
The women would appear and disappear almost as quickly as you were able to turn around and try to talk to them.
Finally, I spotted a would be worker and pulled up next to her, identified myself and asked her if I could simply interview her for a minute. For a Dort Highway hooker, this lady looked pretty nice, but she was not interested in an interview.
Finally after several attempts to get a comment, she leaned in and said "you're messing up our decoy sting, Jim, I'm a cop?" Should have known by the lack of needle sticks in her arm and the fact she was attractive.
Later, my cop sources at the Flint Police Department had a good laugh at my expense as they recounted my conversation with the decoy that they had been listening to over the wire worn by the female police officer. No doubt some of them were salivating over the potential of arresting a Flint Journal reporter on a soliciting charge, but were disappointed when they discovered I was only looking for a comment not something else.
So my patrols began again, this time I found a "real" prostitute, but she insisted that I was costing her money by being parked next to her and asking questions. She said I either had to pay the equivalent for a "session" or get away from her.
When I told her I couldn't pay her for the interview, she told me "I could use some cigarettes." I found out what brand she smoked and went to the nearby 7-11 to buy her a "gift" of cigarettes. In my own mind I justified the "gift" as different from a cash payment for the interview. Probably a bad decision.
By the time I returned about 10 minutes later, she was gone. My patrol continued and about 20 minutes she was back at her spot. So I gave her the packs of cigarettes and she gave me an anonymous statement on how "a girl had to work" and that she wasn't worried about any killer because she had a pretty regular clientele that she knew and trusted.
Then she let me know that I had overstayed my cigarette bribe.