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Prostitutes back on Seattle's Aurora Avenue after shut down of online sex services

Aurora Avenue in Seattle

SEATTLE - Prostitution is taking-off along Aurora Avenue again, according to police, and neighbors are demanding answers to end the spike in sex trafficking.

During a community meeting on Tuesday night, even officers admitted that street walking has shot up since online sex services like backpage.com got shut down. Police used the meeting to talk to neighbors about the response and listen to where people say it falls short.

Neighbors call it a scourge. Prostitutes are strutting down Aurora Ave. N at all hours of the day, and business owners said they are feeling the brunt.

“They literally are surrounding the entrance to our business, and that's what patrons are greeted by coming into our parking lot,” said Candice Robertson, the manager at Comfort Inn & Suites at Aurora and N 137th Street.

A long list of concerns came up during the meeting. Despite the complaints, many neighbors urged police to make them part of the solution.

“How can we work with them? How can they leverage us to help them change that environment,” asked David Wiegand, one of the neighbors who attended the meeting.

One suggestion was to do more to penalize motel operators who look the other way during these sex trafficking transactions.

“There definitely are hotels on this strip that don't make it any better,” Robertson said.

Police said one of the big challenges is building cases against the pimps, who tend to keep their criminal activity in the shadows. Seattle Police Capt. Sean O’Donnell said Tuesday’s meeting was partially an effort to show neighbors that steps are being taken to address these sex crimes.

“We're looking at it. We are keenly aware of the complaints that are coming in about additional people out on Aurora,” O’Donnell said. “That's the purpose of this meeting tonight (Tuesday), is to have the conversation so we hear the information and try and adjust what we're doing."

In addition to uniformed patrols along Aurora Ave. N, Seattle police also run undercover stings that focus on sex buyers. In July, a diversion program also began to steer prostitutes off the streets and get them long-term help.

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