Police arrest 13 in undercover prostitution sting

Authorities say 13 women were arrested Wednesday in a sting operation.

An undercover sting operation in Central Falls and Pawtucket led to the arrest of 13 women for prostitution.

All the suspects were either issued a summons with a future court date or were held as violators and arraigned in District Court on Wednesday. The women ranged in ages from 25 to 50.

Chief James Mendonca of the Central Falls Police Department called it a successful sting, but said the prostitution problem isn't going away.

"We noticed there was an uptick. We received information from our officers from intelligence reports. We also received calls from the public as well," Mendonca said.

In addition to the 13 women arrested Wednesday, nearly 20 men have been arrested for soliciting women for sex in the same area of Central Falls, according to police.

"I hear prostitution is a victimless crime, but there are many victims of this activity. There's quality of life issues for the people living in the area. It adversely affects the businesses in the area, and there's socioeconomic affects to this," Mendonca said.

Prostitution has been a rampant problem in the Central Falls area since the 1990s. Back then, police averaged 60 arrests a year. As of 2013, numbers were closer to 10 arrests a year.

In the past six months, more than 25 people have been arrested for prostitution in Central Falls. Police said they're proud of the work that's been done to make the arrests, but said they can't tackle the problem alone.

"I don't want to get into politics, but this is a public policy issue. There are many factors here. Health and safety of the public has to be conducted in part by law enforcement, but many other people need to be at the table to combat this problem," Mendonca said.