Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, is not only the largest city in the state, but it is also the largest capital city in the United States. With nearly 1.5 million residents, Phoenix’s metropolitan area is known as the “Valley of the Sun”. The county seat of Maricopa County, the area has been known in past years to have higher than average crime rates, along with more prostitution arrests than any other Arizona county.
History of prostitution in Phoenix
Explored by mountain men and founded in 1861, Phoenix was a frontier town that boomed in just a few years. Just like in many frontier towns of the day, prostitution was part of the social fabric that wove the community together.
As the city soon became an industrial, economic, financial, transportation and cultural center for southwestern United States, it also incurred its fair share of crime and criminal activity. While extensive records do not elaborate greatly about the level of organized crime and other illegal activity, it was certainly present.
During the 1940s, Phoenix was the home to three military bases including Falcon Field, Williams Air Force Base and Luke Air Force Base. After the war, organized crime magnates moved into the area and operated significant crime rings with exciting nightlife and sports opportunities. Prostitution and other crimes ran rampant.
By the 1980s, many U.S. residents have moved to Arizona to enjoy the more arid environment. However, street gangs and the drug trade had also moved to the Phoenix area. Where the street gangs and drug trade went, so did prostitution.
In recent years, the Phoenix police department has made a visible effort to control prostitution and other crimes associated with it. The department has made it clear to the residents of Phoenix that prostitution will not be tolerated. Van Buren Street (near 24th Street and downtown) is no longer a haven for prostitution. Previously drawn to the area with motels that rent by the hour and advertise adult movies, prostitutes have been driven out of the area due to police sweeps and community efforts.
Crackdowns have included several sting arrests of prostitution rings involving participants from several states. In 2008, a ring was destroyed. It was determined that more and more prostitution is conducted through websites advertising escorts. Law enforcement officials have learned that some prostitution profits in Phoenix go directly to support drug and smuggling operations.
Modern prostitution law in Phoenix
The city laws of Phoenix specify that prostitution is a misdemeanor (just like determined by Arizona state laws on prostitution). Offenders arrested for the first time may serve 15 days in jail. Second offenses receive sentences of 30 days in jail, while offenders arrested for a third time spend 60 days in jail. Prostitutes arrested for a fourth offense may be convicted of a felony and spend up to 18 months in prison.
Penalties are more serious for pimps and brothel owners. Offenders convicted of these crimes may serve up to 18 months in prison and pay a fine up to $150,000. Pimping and brothel ownership are considered felony convictions.
More serious consideration is being taken to address the increasing problem of kidnapping occurrences in Phoenix and other parts of Arizona. It is presumed that a portion of these kidnappings result in human trafficking and prostitution.
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The following Nevada counties have their own laws and regulations on prostitution:
- Prostitution laws in Churchill County
- Prostitution laws in Lander County
- Prostitution laws in Lyon County
- Prostitution laws in Nye County
- Prostitution laws in Storey County
Prostitution laws in US cities:
- Prostitution laws in Chicago
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