SEATTLE -- Buyer beware. In the war on prostitution, King County is now going after the men looking to buy sex, while getting help for those in the sex trade.
"These girls are exploited over and over and over again," said Noel Gomez, a former prostitute who now helps other women and girls get out of the lifestyle. "Now, finally there’s some protection and some hope for these women."
Gomez says that’s because police and prosecutors are no longer targeting prostitutes. Instead, they are after the men who pay for sex.
King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced the new push to get help for women trapped in the sex trade, and go after the men keeping the trade alive, especially on the Internet. They’ll do it by setting up stings on popular sex-for-money websites.
Prosecutors estimate that about 27,000 King County men are soliciting sex online every day.
The new goal is a monumental change. For years, prostitutes were the targets of law enforcement. Gomez remembers police cuffing her and letting the 'john' go free.
"The officer asked the john how much money he had given me and took my money and gave it back to the john," said Gomez.
By going after the buyers, police believe they can reduce prostitution by 20 percent in the next two years.
"I think the men are very afraid of being caught," said Gomez. "They’re used to the women being the targets and being the prey. Now they are."