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In nearly each instance, the person arrested was female. Springfield Police Capt. William Collins said that of the arrests in that time — 75 in and 32 so far this year — all but maybe three were women, and all were charged with being prostitutes. Collins, the head of the police department's Strategic Impact Unit, which deals with narcotics and vice violations, said he did not have any data for the number of customers and would-be customers, or "Johns," arrested but said there were likely not that many.
A review of prostitution arrests statewide by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting reflects a similar disparity statewide in terms of the number of men arrested versus the number of women arrested for sex crimes. If the person supplying sex for money and the person buying sex with money are each breaking the law, why is there such a gender gap in arrests? Collins said the gap is due in part to a combination of personnel issues, overtime money and even the weather.
A John sweep was planned and in place a few weeks ago but just as it was about to begin, it started pouring rain, he said.
And that put a damper on the whole thing. Collins said one reason for the gender disparity in arrests is that most of the prostitutes in Springfield are women, and it is simply easier to spot and arrest a prostitute than it is one of their customers.
Those working as prostitutes typically stand out in areas frequented by prostitutes. They also work to make themselves visible as they look for customers, he said. The Johns, on the other hand, are more low-key. They drive up and drive off and rarely get out of the car. A task force chaired by attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley proposed combating prostitution by targeting Johns. If the sex trade is, like most things, a case of supply and demand, the task force recommends focusing on the demand.