Special Report: Dimming the red light

Prostitution is said to be the world's oldest profession, and it is certainly alive and well in Corpus Christi.

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Prostitution is said to be the world's oldest profession, and it is certainly alive and well in Corpus Christi.

Police are trying to keep women from returning to that profession by encouraging them to choose a different direction for their lives.

"I was using heroin at the time, I couldn't get a job," Susan said.

Susan had been prostituting for 20 years.

"My boyfriend, we were breaking into houses, using that money to go get our drugs," Susan said.

The 54-year-old knows the vicious cycle all too well.

"It was just horrible I lived in a tree slept in parking lots," Susan said.

Corpus Christi Police Department's Narcotics Vice Division reports prostitution has decreased by 34% in the last three years.

  • 50 arrest in 2015
  • 57 in 2016
  • 34 in 2017.

"Its just an ugly world it's dark, very dark," Susan said.

But there was hope for Susan with Operation Red Cord. In partnership with the police department the District Attorney's office and the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation, the program is aimed at helping people like Susan.

"Our officers work in primarily in an undercover capacity, so they're monitoring all different ways prostitutes solicit customers," commander Todd Green said. "Through escort services, massage parlors, a lot of different venues."

"Evolved to where they use social media internet websites escort type websites to solicit prostitution that way," Green said. "We do monitor there's been increase 15 - 20 years ago didn't exist at all."

Commander Green also said human trafficking could come into play.
    
'We work with organized crime unit, FBI, any federal resources we need to bring in very serious crime," Green said. "It got to the point where I didn't care anymore. I didn't care if I lived or died."

Susan was arrested in a sting operation, and it was then when she learned about Red Cord.

"Really good program to try and get at the heart of the crime as opposed to continuing making arrests," Green said. "Open arms no judgment not that you're worthless, they didn't judge us ."

The program includes substance abuse treatment, counseling, medical services, temporary housing, education, job training and even getting their charge deferred and off their record. But the District Attorney first has to determine eligibility. 

"Takes really strong person to be fully committed to program like this," Alison Johnson said.

Johnson with the program said that although it may seem like a great opportunity, not everyone is ready to commit. 

"Them to stop doing it get out of that it's too scary to get out of that,"  Johnson said. "Difficult to comprehend change be willing."

"Its deeper than the money a lot of women and men out there have emotional problems," Susan said.

"Sexual abuse as a child, even as an adult, physical, sexual abuse, family domestic violence Johnson said. "Majority some kind of trauma of violence."

But Red Cord is in danger. There is not enough funding and services are not cheap.

"Somebody's 30-day treatment can run thousands of dollars, even individual counseling, outpatient counseling could be 100s of dollars," Johnson said.

Even though Susan is on the right track, she said staying away from that lifestyle is not easy. 

"I have got my own place now. I pay my bills, I come to the classes," Susan said. 'It deadens all that pain you don't feel worthless. It makes you feel like you're 10 feet tall and bulletproof."

When Susan first started the program, she was arrested again, and she thought her shot at redemption was over.

"I was embarrassed," Susan said. "I thought they wouldn't love me anymore. They weren't going to help me they were just gonna throw me away."

Red Cord did not give up on Susan.

"They gave me another chance. I was so relieved," Susan said. "They don't remind me about it they ask me why I relapsed find my triggers."

Johnson hopes more funding will come through to help people like Susan in South Texas but 

"We could pay for more substance abuse treatments more houses, more classes," Johnson said.

The responsibility also lies with the individual and not just Red Cord.

"You have to want to do it you got to keep on with it, it's just important for your very own survival," Johnson said.

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