Child Prostitution: Victims Working Reno Streets

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Yesterday's sweep by Reno Police officers of the Crest Inn at Fourth and Ralston netted just one arrest on a warrant charge and the discovery of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The biggest catch of this long investigation took place in late September as members of RPD's Street Enforcement team discovered a man staying there was running two prostitutes on Reno's streets, the girls from Sacramento were aged just 14 and 15.

It was hardly the first time a police prostitution sting had encountered prostitutes this young or even younger. Sgt. Mac Venzon, who heads up RPD's Street Enforcement Team, says his officers run across underage hookers at least six or 7 times a year.

This pair were from Sacramento. That too, is typical.

"They're brought up by their pimps, usually young people, too," says Venzon. "Eighteen, 19,20 year old males ,who bring them up here and pimp out two,3 or 4 girls at a time and run the streets of Reno for a week and then go home."

In this case, officers say the young girls were brought to Reno by Aaron Ross who is now facing federal charges of bringing a juvenile across state borders to engage in prostitution.

The girls were working the downtown streets, but they were based on West Fourth Street. The motels there are where, more often than not, these transcient pimps set up for their brief stay.

Venzon says he doesn't think the motel owners and managers condone the prostitution.

"I think what happens is the motel owners tend to just look the other way or not pay attention to the activity that's going on."

Motel owners are required by law to see identification of anyone checking in. Venzon says they'd like to get them to make a copy of those ID's.

Ross is being held on state and federal charges. The two girls in this case were returned to California where they were already separated from their families and wards of the state. Sadly, one of them has already runaway from the state program she was in.

"Once they are in this lifestyle, it's hard to get them out," Venzon says, adding that even at this young age these girls are already street hardened.

Prostitution, Venzon says, is a crime, but in every sense of the word, these girls are victims.

In any case, they face a bleak and probably brief future.

"Typically girls that young when they get into this lifestyle don't live past 20-25 years old whether it be from drug addiction, drug overdose or crimes of violence."

Reno Police and the F-B-I working as the Innocence Lost Task Force jointly work these cases.

Although this case resulted from a police undercover sting, they say they also get tips from the public, even other street people.

"No one condones this except the pimps." says Venzon.

Anyone with information on this or any other street crime can call Secret Witness at 322-4900 and remain anonymous.