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Police: Prostitution sting first step in crackdown of growing sex trade

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

In South Burlington police say men hoping to meet a prostitute encountered police at a local motel. Investigators say the sting is the first step in a crackdown on a growing drug and sex trade.

"We posted the ad at 10 minutes to 10 and probably within 2 or 3 minutes the phone calls and texts started," said Detective Ron Bliss from the South Burlington Police Department.

Bliss says investigators expected responses when they posted an ad selling sexual services on the website Back page, but the demand was surprising with 40 people making inquiries.

"Of those 40 people it was over 280 separate conversations," said Bliss.

Police say seven of the men actually showed up at the Anchorage Inn on Dorset Street expecting to meet a prostitute. Instead they met police and are now charged with prohibited acts.

"They had discussed money. They had discussed the specific act they were interested in, and once they showed up, they were obviously here just for that," said Bliss.

No actual prostitutes were involved in the case but police say a look at the website where they posted the ad and increased prostitution activity is just evidence of a larger issue of drug dealing and human trafficking.

"Women who are prostituting themselves oftentimes are victims," said T.J. Donovan, Chittenden County States Attorney. "It's not necessarily about that transaction of paying for sex. It's these larger issues of why are women being prostituted, who are the pimps."

Police say last week they encountered a 15-year-old girl working as a prostitute, just the latest in a growing string of problems in the area.

"A lot of the girls get harmed, they get raped, they get attacked. The Johns' have been getting ripped off, they've been getting robbed, there’s been hotel break-ins into other rooms, I mean it just keeps expanding," said Bliss.

The men could face fines if convicted on misdemeanor charges. They're due in court next month.

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