The Breakfast Club

In Galveston, it's coffee, a newspaper and a blow job on the way to work

Fleming says he wouldn't recognize a high-class lobby-of-the-Ritz hooker. But he knows how to spot a crack whore. A crack whore, he says, typically doesn't change her clothes or shower for a week. She stays awake for three to five days at a time. She's usually a sick, skinny woman with a dazed, dead look in her eyes. Unlike power walkers with new white sneakers, a crack whore walks as if she doesn't have any particular place to go. "There's some very, very nasty girls," he says.

Most tourists walk on the sidewalk by the beach. Prostitutes stick to the business side of the street where there are plenty of parking lots, side streets and alleys. On the sea side, there isn't a place for a john to stop and pick a girl up. Plus, Fleming says, it's harder to make a U-turn on the beach side of the street.

Prostitutes turn tricks in cars parked on the beach or on side streets. "The girls are out flagging traffic and giving blow jobs and having sex in front of houses where people's kids are," Fleming says. "They'll pull over right on the side of the curb, right in front of somebody's house with kids playing out in the yard. You don't want your kid walking by some car and see a girl giving a guy a blow job."

Daniel Kramer
Galvestonís red-light district is on the seawall east of 35th Street.
Sergeant Phillip Fleming talks about prostitutes like a 
big game hunter.
Daniel Kramer
Sergeant Phillip Fleming talks about prostitutes like a big game hunter.

The first time a woman is arrested for prostitution it's a class B misdemeanor that carries a punishment of up to six months in county jail. The second arrest is a class A misdemeanor and the jail time is doubled. The third time a prostitute is arrested is a felony: She can be incarcerated for up to two years in prison.

All prostitution charges carry a fine ranging from $1 to $4,000. "We never fine them, period," Ibrahim says. "You're fining people that are walking the street performing lewd sexual acts for $20. What are you gonna encourage them to do if you fine them? They're not gonna go get a job."

Usually, Fleming says, prostitutes stay in the county jail for only six to ten days. The penitentiaries are full, he says. Hookers have to be released to make room for more serious criminals, he says.

Some argue that the only way to eliminate Galveston's prostitution problem is to legalize it. But even if Galveston County adopted the pay-for-it-if-you-want-to laws like some Nevada counties, Galveston crack whores would still be unemployed and working the streets, Fleming says. Most of the women he arrests are highly unattractive, and cathouses like the Bunny Ranch in Nevada employ pretty prostitutes.

Occasionally Fleming conducts reverse stings, where he has an undercover female officer pose as a whore. The reverse stings usually take place between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. During a recent reverse sting, 17 men were arrested. Men who solicit are charged with prostitution, too.

"The only reason we do the johns is just as a deterrent," he says. "So the guys know we're out there." No one complains about the men, just the women. Of course, Fleming says, the problem with the men is that when a man has sex "with some nasty, disease-infested whore," he gets a sexually transmitted disease and then gives it to his wife. If the couple has children, the kids can carry the disease too. "That happens," he says.

Fleming has arrested doctors, lawyers, firefighters and other police officers. "I've actually arrested friends of mine," he says. "Which was embarrassing."

Mary Willis sits on her front porch videotaping prostitutes walking up and down 32nd Street. She and her 23-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, want to put the footage on a Web site. During slow moments, they rewind the tape and watch the video. Sometimes they set the camcorder in the window and hook it up to the TV. "It's like watching Cops," Willis says.

She lives behind the Diamond Shamrock station in a white rental house on the corner of S Street. Her home is across the street from the Sea Horse Motel and catercorner to the Driftwood Motel -- both prostitution hotbeds. Last week Willis watched men go in and out of rooms 114 and 116 at the Driftwood. "It looked like the McDonald's drive-thru after a Friday-night football game," she says.

Willis has nicknamed every woman who works on her street, from Skelawhore to Chickenhead. Her five-year-old son, Krischan, can sit on the front steps and pick out prostitutes. When Willis walks him to the bus stop, men try to pick her up. Men driving delivery trucks, 18-wheelers, Porsches and Pontiacs circle the neighborhood searching for whores. "If they make more than one trip around the block, they're looking for something," Willis says.

When Willis sees a prostitute get into a car, she writes down the license plate number. One man asked why she jotted down his digits. She asked him why he let a prostitute get in his car. Didn't he see her? Didn't he see how filthy she was? Did he not notice the sores covering her body?

"Do these guys have a blindfold on when they pick them up?" she asks. "I could understand a $500 call girl in Houston -- they're clean."

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Concentrate on exposing and arresting the johns and confiscating their vehicles, and bust the crack dealers big time. Business and then the crack supply will dry up and move somewhere else.

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