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Posted on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ypsilanti police, sheriff's department team up to discourage prostitution on Michigan Avenue

By Tom Perkins

Early Wednesday evening, an undercover Ypsilanti Police officer approached a woman in her mid-40’s, offering money for sex as she walked near the corner of East Michigan Ave. and Allen Road in Ypsilanti Township.

The woman accepted and got in an unmarked car. Minutes later she and the “john” were pulled over just east of Prospect Road on Cross Street by a team of Ypsilanti officers and Washtenaw County sheriff's department deputies.

The solicitation took place in Ypsilanti Township, the arrest was made in Ypsilanti and the woman was taken to the YPD for booking en route to the Washtenaw County Jail. She would spend the night there before seeing a judge in the morning.

“For these details that’s normally how it goes," said sheriff’s department Sgt. Marlene Radzik.


This intersection along Michigan Avenue was the site of an arrest during a prostitution sting Wednesday night.

Melanie Maxwell |

Six times over the last year, the sheriff’s department and Ypsilanti Police have run joint sting operations to try to curb persistent prostitution issues along East Michigan Ave., largely between Prospect and Ridge Roads. The stretch runs through their two jurisdictions, and both agencies ran solo sting operations in the past, but officials said they only succeeded in pushing the problem up and down the corridor.

Now, officials are hoping to permanently put a stop to prostitution in the area, and the partnership is one effort to address the issue. The other is an aggressive social program. Before a prostitute is transferred to the county jail, she meets with workers from the county’s Project Outreach Team (PORT) for an assessment of her mental health and substance abuse issues.

The team writes sentencing recommendations that include mandatory substance abuse and mental health treatment. Because most area prostitutes, like the one arrested on Tuesday, are high when arrested and ply their trade to raise more money for drugs, PORT takes aim at those issues. And most judges take the recommendations seriously.

Police and social workers stressed that drugs and mental illness are behind the women's lifestyle choices, and the agencies are trying to be more effective by addressing them.

“I have not met one person while I’ve been out doing this who doesn’t have a drug addiction or mental illness,” said Renee Blaze, a PATH worker who interviews women.

The program started when Radzik, who has regularly logged hours as a decoy throughout her 22 years on the force, reached out to the social work agencies and YPD. The YPD’s end is managed by Sgt. Troy Fulton. The partnership with social workers is new for both police agencies, which are used to simply arresting people and letting the judge handle the rest.

Officials in both agencies hope the new approach will be more successful than the past practice of catching, booking and releasing women and johns. Officers say they see too many repeat offenders and regularly arrest the same people in the same area.

A problem on the wane?

Fulton said Ypsilanti experienced a decrease in the number of prostitution calls over the last year, and neighborhood groups in the area are lodging fewer complaints about the issue. The business community along East Michigan Ave has been vocal about the problem in the Township.

Fulton theorized prostitution activity may have dropped in part because of the township's sharp industrial decline.

“When you have 4,000 plant workers coming and going, there are a lot more customers,” he said.

But undercover officers running the sting operation Wednesday evening only waited minutes before identifying and approaching suspected prostitutes.

Police officials said part of the problem is the strip has been identified as a good spot to pick up prostitutes on websites like Craigslist and At the latter, prostitutes and locations are rated and discussed in threads. Users also discuss sting operations.

Fulton said officers suspect prostitutes may use some of the motels on the strip, though they don’t have concrete evidence and don’t set up sting operations there. He added the area's physical environment also allowed prostitution to flourish. Until it was recently shut down and cleared, the Ypsilanti Mobile Village mobile home park just west of Ecorse Road on East Michigan Avenue was known for rampant prostitution because of the number of abandoned trailer homes.

Some of the women and johns arrested on stings are from out of town, while others are local. When a female decoy is out, officers pick up around eight johns in a five-hour period. When male decoys go looking for women, they usually net five to six.

There is no program for johns, though Radzik is hoping to eventually start one. Generally, their cars are impounded and they are charged with a misdemeanor.

The agencies have run six joint operations over the 18 months. Some planned operations had to be canceled because such a large team is required. Officers work on paid overtime for the stings, and more pressing issues such as murders occasionally require their full attention.

But police officials stressed prostitution is a serious crime and is not "victimless." Officers see women who are beaten or stabbed, and sometimes the women steal from their customers. Since most of the sex is unprotected, the johns sometimes bring home STD's to their wives. People who live in the area have to witness the prostitution and neighbors have complained that their teenage daughters are solicited when walking up to local stores.

Signs of success

Following another arrest during Wednesday's sting operation, a woman in her early 20s with a record of prostitution told the arresting deputy, Sharon Saydak that she recognized Saydak from a previous arrest. The woman claimed she was set up by a friend on the first arrest. She then said that she hadn't planned to have sex with the undercover officer that evening and was only getting a ride to her aunt’s house.

“I’m doing a lot better since you last saw me,” she told Saydak.

Because it is still so early in the program, officials don’t know the scale of their success, but PORT workers say results have been better than expected. Although the third woman arrested was a repeat offender, officers say anecdotally they are seeing fewer repeaters. Several of the first six women arrested and put through the program are now volunteers at PORT.

Beds are held at a local treatment center for women who are caught in the stings, and workers try to engage them as much as possible. After the prostitutes’ initial assessment and follow up visits from PORT workers in jail, they are steered — or court ordered — to PORT’s resources for homeless, drug-addicted and mentally ill residents caught in the justice system. The program aims to treat mental illness and addiction at the same time to increase the chances of success.

Radzik said she started the joint program and has a passion for it after what she has seen over the years. Many of the women in the Ypsilanti area use either crack or heroin, and most have no stable home and stay wherever they can. The prostitutes’ lives, Radzik said, have become “a sad revolving door.”

“You have to be desperate to put up with that,” she said. "Until you walk in their shoes, it's hard to understand that their addictions must be so much stronger than their common sense when they decide to put themselves in that position."


Cendra Lynn

Fri, Sep 9, 2011 : 3:06 a.m.

Legalizing prostitution makes about as much sense as sanctioning arranged marriages between grown men and toddler girls. Prostitution means drugs, money, and pimps. Drugs and money mean guns and killing. Duh! Helping the women caught in this revolving door IS a good use of society's money. Helping the johns deal with their supposed need for sex should come next. What is wrong with men who think sex is so vital that they must get it any way that they can?


Tue, Sep 6, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

I think they need to target the johns. They should get a few billboards and post their pictures, shame-style! Get rid of the demand, you'll lower the supply.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

Prostitution should be legalized and taxed.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 7:15 a.m.

This prostitution thing is primarily about economics. The three things needed to end this profession forever are: 1. Creating a system which will guide everyone to a job & income which will support at least the individuals themselves in a "reasonable" standard of living. 2. Creating a system (including our societal system) where both men and women can form sexual partnerships which are fulfilling and gratifying. 3. Elimination of, once and for all, the phony moralisms which only worsen the problem. Anything less than these three things is inadequate and guarantees there will always be women selling their bodies and johns needing what healthy men need. Law enforcement and remedial programs like those described here are just bandaids; they come and go and then come and go again, and again.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

I am glad to see that the Ypsi Police and County Sheriff actually target the "johns" as well. If there were no "johns", there would probably be little or no prostitution. It's also good to see that PORT lead by Officer Radzik is offering some treatment and support services to women who are caught up in this business. However, with that said, I feel that our law enforcement system targets the wrong individuals when it comes to addressing the drug issue in our community. I would be willing to bet that not one of these individuals who have a drug problem ever imported an ounce of drugs into this community or were responsible for it being distributed throughout the community. It seems that a tremendous of taxpayer money is being spent on arresting, prosecuting and treating drug offenders that if this money was diverted to actually trying to targeting the big time dealers who bring this stuff into our community, we could make a dent in this problem. Stories are often written about the little offenders and how the system is doing this or that or have some "progressive" program in place to combat the problem while the big offenders live in big mansions, drive fancy cars and otherwise live high on the hog. It seems that the current system which supports many jobs in law enforcement thrives because of its ability to target these little offenders who once they are committed to the system, is rewarded financially and jobs are sustained and we taxpayers continue to pay.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Laughing out loud!!.. many law enforcement jobs?.. where have you been the last few years. when we have laid off almost 1/2 the force statewide?. now i would bet.. if any of you had to work or live where this happens you'd be complaining, what if ur wife was outside and got approached by men asking her to give them s#x.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

The word is interdiction. Sorry.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

NIDA reports indicate that indiction, arresting those who traffic in drugs, is ineffective as long as there are customers. Programs aimed at prevention are the most cost effective. This does not include the DARE program, which increases marijuana use. Prevention that works with young families and preschool children to improve living conditions and parenting skills have proven to be the most cost effective. Almost none of this is being done. Most prostitutes were sexually abused as children. Large numbers of addicts were also abused as children, physically, emotionally, and/or sexually. Dealing with these problems before kids get to school is the most positive and helpful thing. It also brings up issues that our society doesn't like to deal with or believe is part of who we are as a country.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

@Bogie - Because the "world's oldest profession" will cease to exist if we keep dumping more and more money into trying to stop it. That strategy is working great with the "war on drugs" - if you own stock in private prison corporations or are a member of the police "taskforces".


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Ya, that's what we need. Legalize it, so your spouse can go have intercourse with someone, who may have needle marks and hundreds of sexual partners. Then we can have innocent people put in danger of their lives. Ya, that makes sense.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

I agree that prostitution should be legalized and regulated, as it is in some other countries. However, as long as it's illegal, then cleaning up the hot spots makes sense. It's a criminal activity that is dangerous for women. I would agree that a drug and rehab program are needed for prostitution perps, but unless they are provided with a legal means to make $$, it is indeed a revolving door. What other options do they have to support themselves if they eventually get off the drugs? It's a much bigger issue than just the criminal activity itself. Good article.

Supervenient Man

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

Tom, you dropped the ball on this one. No photos, no rates... how's a fellow supposed to find a date around here?


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

Putting more people out of work? Do we really need to do this with the bad economy?

no flamers!

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

Great article, great program (PATH) and great cooperation b/n WCS and YPD. Nice work to all involved! Let's clean up our streets, one by one if necessary.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

I think naming the links is a good idea. Many kids are already on such sites and their parents don't have a clue. It is good that parents learn about sites their kids may already be on. Kids also inadvertantly find porn sites all the time. Type in "boy hotties" and instead of Justin Beiber, you get porn sites, which will then sometimes pop up on the screen even if they were never opened. Parents, think back on how much you knew or experimented with that your parents never found out about.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

@Bob Krzewinski It's a waste of money because it is an unnecessary black market. You are absolutely right, nobody wants unregulated streetwalkers parading in front of their homes. There's lots of crime and other externalities that come with this behavior. Perhaps instead, we should have available prostitution for those who wish to partake in it in particular sections of town...a district so to speak. Of course I realize this is light years away from happening in Michigan but it might be a good idea.

Bob Krzewinski

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

On the comments about the police going after prostitutes as a waste of time and money, I wonder how long it would take for the same people to call the police if hookers were parading right in front of their house?


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

To those who want the sex links removed...if you don't like them you don't have to click on them. If you don't want your kids to click on them, then they really shouldn't be reading this article - they are too immature to deal with the subject in general. That's where your job, as parents, comes in. Monitor their internet usage, even on sites like Ann Arbor...were you able to read any page of the newspaper or watch anything on TV growing up? Most of us weren't. There'd be little difference if they left the links or just mentioned the sites names. I think mentioning the sites is an important fact to this article...saying "the internet" would be much too vauge. If removed the hyperlinks and your kids really wanted to see them, I bet your kids know what google is or how to put in an address into the brower and go there....


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Teens know about prostitution. Many prostitutes, both male and female, are teenagers.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Good story. On a specific note, the story quotes Renee Blaze, who works for an organization called PATH. What is PATH? On a more general note, linking senseless enforcement of stupid laws to laudable efforts at rescuing people from extremely unfortunate circumstances is so wrong-headed as to render the whole expensive exercise both futile and stupid. "We're here to help you, let me get these handcuffs on your wrists."


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Just east of prospect, actually...

k vaneck

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Fantastic article. Please remove the links to sex trade websites. This is an unneccessary addition to this online article.

Mike Folk

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

Shocked that you actually linked the sex-trade websites. I think referencing them would be enough. I really don't want my kids reading the newspaper and clicking links teaching them how to get a lucky at a strip club.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

Most kids alrready know that to get into a strip club or any other club, you need to have fake ID. They also know where to get these.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

then parent them

Silly Sally

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

This is a well sritten and informative article, a throwback to the Ann Arbor News. It lists all of the facts and then discusses them.I wish that this site had several of this typoe of article every day?

Silly Sally

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.


John Agno

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

Attempting to "discourage prostitution" is as useless waste of resources as the U.S. government's attempt to change cultural memes in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

Early Wednesday evening, an undercover Ypsilanti Police officer approached a woman in her mid-40's, offering money for sex as she walked near the corner of East Michigan Ave. and Allen Road in Ypsilanti Township. " Perhaps prostitution has declined for several reasons.The obvious one is the economy, people have less income and it is better to put food in your tummy than pay for sex. The other might be all the prostitutes have gotten older (the one above was in her mid 40's) and most people if they are paying for sex might want a younger hook up. But I contend that this is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Prostitution should be legalized and taxed. This would for the most part get it off the street corners and the women who earn their living doing this would have a much better life for many many reasons. Good Day


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Until the rapist are caught, leave the hookers alone. Leave the cannabis facilities alone as well.


Sat, Sep 3, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

And walk *or* chew gum. Don't do both.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

While I agree catching the rapist should be a high priority, this story involves Ypsilanti Police. They typically don't spend too much time on the U of M campus. Two separate issues.

Smart Logic

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

Good article, Tom. Lots of facts, quotes from relevant people, and good arrangement. Keep up the good work.

Dr. Vag

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 11:09 a.m.

Wow, this is actually a real news article. Nice work Perk.


Fri, Sep 2, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

Thank you, Tom. It was a pleasure to read your thorough reporting on this issue. I wish PORT all possible success.