Bellevue Police arrest 12 men in prostitution sting

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Bellevue Police Department detectives arrested 12 men as part of an undercover prostitution sting. This was a two-day sting and the men were arrested at a hotel in the city.

Police said that overall, 66 men responded to a Bellevue vice detective's fake ad on a known prostitution website.

A thirteenth man would have been arrested if that person didn't get lost finding the hotel, Bellevue police said.

Of the 12 that were arrested, one man was from Bellevue, many were from neighboring cities and one man from Georgia responded to the ad.

According to Bellevue Police, prostitution is appealing because the city is affluent, there are many hotels, and it's close proximity to the freeway. Bellevue Police's message is to make it not appealing at all.

"Our goal is to make prostitution not appealing in the city of Bellevue," said Bellevue Police Capt. Dave Sanabria. "We want people who are looking to establish or are trying to make these dates, to stop and think for a moment that the other person at the end of the line, the end of the ad, or the end of that cell phone, that text, could be a detective waiting for them to take them into custody."

Soliciting a prostitute is a misdemeanor in Bellevue.

Along with pursuing charges, the city prosecutor now recommends that those accused attend a ten-week program called "Stopping Sexual Exploitation." The program is a collaboration among the police department, the city's prosecutor's office and an organization called 'Seattle Against Slavery.'

According to Sanabria, the program has been successful elsewhere.

"I think it’s an opportunity for these men to really take a hard look at what they’re doing and what their role is. Prostitution isn't a victimless crime. A lot of times, these women, they’re not in this particular field on their own volition. They’re also victims of other crimes. Rape, robbery, aggravated assault," said Sanabria.

There have been other instances of prostitution and sex trafficking in Bellevue. In July, police arrested a 36-year-old woman for making an upscale brothel that was in the city's downtown.

Bellevue's Vice Unit has also been proactive in getting victims help. They recently posted on a known prostitution chat forum, specifically reaching out to sex trafficking victims, reminding them that help is out there.