Mayor Steve Tumlin said the arrests are a classic example of why Franklin Road needs to be redeveloped.
“It would, to me, show that area needs help,” Tumlin said of the arrests. “I mean, if it’s on the federal map, that shows me we have an obligation to help that area be better.”
The undercover operation was headed by the Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force with support by the Cobb County Police Department’s Crimes Against Children unit.
The statewide effort recovered two child prostitutes and eight adults were arrested on charges of pimping in the metro Atlanta area, according to a report released July 29 by Special Agent Stephen Emmett.
But the arrests in Marietta on Saturday night, July 27, and early Sunday morning, July 28, involved adult women with no drugs or resisting-arrest charges.
Guy Sharpe, who has been a defense lawyer for 34 years and has a firm at 244 Roswell St. near Marietta National Cemetery, said these women are barely surviving and desperate for cash.
Five women caught in the sting were residents of Georgia and arrested after reportedly offering sex for payments ranging from $30 to $50 dollars, including Allante Green of Mableton, who was arrested outside the commercial area known as Parkway Center.
“The women from out of state came to Georgia, for the most part, on their own,” Emmett said. “One was brought here after meeting the individual who later exploited her on the Internet.”
Prostitution is not a scheme to make a lot of money, and once released they have no other option but to go right back on the streets, Sharpe said.
“Everybody’s got to make a living,” Sharpe said. “I think it is preying on the poor.”
Last weekend, one woman was arrested at the extended-stay Motel 6 at 2360 Delk Road after making a deal with an undercover office of the Atlanta Police Department to perform sexual acts. Two others used rooms at the Courtyard Marietta at 2540 Delk Road, and another two joined together in a sex act at the Marietta Motel, formerly a Comfort Inn, off 2100 Northwest Parkway.
And in May, a north Cobb massage parlor, Q Massage at 1200 Ernest Barret Parkway, was shut down following prostitution arrests.
Sharpe said other countries have chosen to make prostitution legal instead of further punishing those in a desperate situation.
“It is a sad commentary about our legal system,” Sharpe said.
In one case, an officer solicited Lakeva Scruggs of Marietta by posting an ad on Backpage.com, an Internet site that has been targeted by Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens for promoting sex trafficking.
“The female invited the undercover officer to her motel room,” the warrant stated.
The warrant for Scruggs said she was not ultimately arrested “due to child care issues.”
Every other woman was charged with a misdemeanor, but the third prostitution offense can escalate to a felony level.
Sharpe said the arrests will not solve the crime problem in the city and it does nothing to address the gentlemen who are lusting after for the services the women provide. Nor did the FBI’s operation target any of the pimps.
Simply putting ladies in jail “is not a solution,” Sharpe said.
Instead, Sharpe said law enforcement efforts should devote time and money to the bigger issue.
“They are going after the easy hit,” Sharpe said. “It is a matter of making the numbers to show success.”
Emmett said the effort was a highly coordinated operation, requiring months of planning.
He said while arrests of pimps did not largely occur in this effort, information gathered will contribute to the overall intelligence of the task force.
FBI Special Agent Joe Fonseca said in 2012 the task force made 42 federal arrests, rescued 45 children and helped disband 24 juvenile prostitution and child exploitation rings.
The Marietta City Council has placed a $68 million redevelopment bond on the Nov. 5 ballot that would allow the city to buy a number of the aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road, raze them and prepare the land for new development.
“It does go hand in hand as one of the many factors of why we want to reinvest in Franklin Road, to do it and upgrade those apartments and hopefully to cut down the residential density will also be a start toward having that place be better,” Tumlin said, referring to the arrests. “This obviously shows that that area is – Mr. Goldstein and a couple of others deny that there was any problem over there. I think this shows that there is a problem. A lot of good people do live there, but they’re having to be around a lot of challenges.”
Part of the problem is the density, Tumlin said.
“Is 11,000 people in that small an area conducive to a good way of life? That’s part of it,” he said. “The density is so high it leaves some of those apartment complexes so weak that if you sprinkle in a few more businesses, raise the quality, it should be better.”