NEWS

Prostitution rings eluding police

Police are struggling to curb the operation of illegal prostitution rings in central Athens as ringleaders change their tactics and use legal loopholes to avoid arrest, sources have told Kathimerini. One of the main problems, according to vice squad officers, is that the alleged prostitutes – usually African or East European women – only face misdemeanor charges if arrested, which means that they are released from custody almost immediately pending trial and are then difficult to trace. As for the ring members, officers say they often use legal tricks to avoid detection. If, for example, authorities claim that a brothel being operated by the prostitution ring is illegal, those running the venue often argue that the license is in the process of being issued by a committee. Sometimes the name on the rental contract for a venue being used a brothel is changed to thwart authorities. Of some 250 brothels open for business in Athens, only a handful are believed to be operating legally. On the surface, however, most of these venues appear to be legitimate enterprises. Some 150 of the brothels are run on the premises of beauty or massage parlors, police sources say. They add that most of these businesses are overseen by former prostitutes who have assumed the role of procurer. Strip bars are more obvious targets for police seeking leads on prostitution rings. According to police, there are also some young women, particularly from Eastern European countries, who are advertising their own services, though it is unclear whether any of their proceeds go into the coffers of prostitution rings. A 30-year-old Czech woman alleged to have been advertising her services on the site www.citytours-gr.com was arrested in October when an undercover officer posed as a customer.