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Massive Seattle police prostitution sting a ‘colossal waste of time’

More than 200 people were arrested during a prostitution sting in the University District. (KIRO 7)

The Seattle Police Department made 204 arrests during a 10-day prostitution sting that involved setting up their own brothel. It was the most successful sting in SPD history.

And, in KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill and Tom Tangney’s estimation, a huge waste of time and money.

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For the first time ever, vice detectives opened their own “brothel” to make the busts, leading to what Det. Sgt. Tom Umporowicz called the most successful prostitution sting in SPD history. When the “massage parlor” known as Euro Spa, located on Roosevelt Way Northeast in Seattle’s University District, opened July 5, there was a line out the door of men looking for a massage. When men asked for sex in exchange for money they were arrested. Detectives posted ads for the parlor on backpage.com, a website notorious for advertising businesses that are covers for paid sex and escorts.

KIRO 7’s Amy Clancy reported that the SPD has been attempting to target the demand for prostitution in the city.

“It used to be that the prostitutes themselves were arrested and prosecuted the most,” she said. “Now, King County is making a concerted effort to go after the people who go after these prostitutes. And they believe that by arresting them and charging them that it might prevent people from doing it in the future.”

O’Neill is a huge proponent of the work done by officers at the police department. But he noted that the group is understaffed by more than 340 officers and they are currently being paid tons of overtime to deal with the recent protests related to shootings around the country, as well. There is also a heroin epidemic and massive homeless problem.

That’s why, to him, the sting was a “colossal waste of time.”

“This is ridiculous; this cost a lot of money and is tomfoolery,” he said. “You pick up the phone and call the police and they’re not coming. Well, because we’re using our man- and women-power to do stuff like this.”

O’Neill said it would be a completely different thing if police went after sex-traffickers or people who pressure and abuse underage girls involved in sex work. Instead, he says, it’s more of an attack on the lives of tech workers and lonely Seattle residents.

“A lot of these men probably won’t do any time for this, but they will sure be embarrassed, there will be divorces over this, families will be embarrassed and they may end up losing their jobs,” he said. “If these are underage girls, that’s different, if it’s girls being trafficked, that’s different.”

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