A prostitution arrest in Syracuse last week acted as a reminder that sex for hire is still a problem in the city, but one that now has different causes and different responses. Patricia Lewis was charged with prostitution on February 18. She agreed to perform a sexual act on a man for under $50.
"When it comes to street-level prostitution," said Syracuse Police officer Matthew Malinowski, "everyone is used to seeing, [it] has been focused on the city's Northside near Washington Square."
Police confirm she is one of many who have been getting arrested in the area, however, suspects aren't always treated as criminals.
“Sometimes when we make an arrest it’s not just to send that person to jail," Malinowski said.
He said once offenders appear in court the judge offers resources to help fight what is usually an underlying drug addiction. That is a positive change from the way prostitutes were regarded a decade ago, according to Malinowski's 10-year experience on the force.
"I would advocate for us to really make sure we are addressing the underlying problem, [which is], why is this person doing this?" Malinowski asked.
Prostitutes sometimes have no choice. They can be victims of human trafficking — The Pentecost Evangelical Missionary Baptist Church in Syracuse hosted an informational event on Saturday. Human trafficking in the Syracuse area was among the issues discussed.
"It's just something I felt the community needed to know about because a lot of people are concerned about human trafficking and didn't know it was taking place within the city of Syracuse," said Nolita Tanyhill, one of the church event’s organizers.
The presentation discussed how someone can spot human trafficking. There were also statistics presented such as the fact prostitutes are typically women and customers are usually male.
Police said men involved get arrested as well, which shows accountability on both ends of the spectrum.
"[Paying for sex is] something I would suggest people avoid and try to go about getting relations in a more legitimate fashion," Malinowski said.
He said there is a strong push to get people to stop paying for sex altogether.
"We get a lot of people coming in from out of town and soliciting sex," Malinowski said.
The goal, Malinowski said, is to end this cycle.