The Trouble With Illicit

[Update: I meant to tie this more closely to “Illicit” book review, because I think this illustrates those hard choices.]

There’s some fascinating competing legal goals on display in the Washington Post story “Area Police Try to Combat a Proliferation of Brothels:”

“Sometimes it takes five or six interviews to break these girls [sic], to let them know we’re the good guys,” said Stack, noting that many have an inherent distrust of law enforcement officers. “We haven’t gotten any trafficking victims from these cases. It’s not because we haven’t spoken to them. It’s not because we’re not trying. It’s just very difficult to make these girls flip.”

The trouble is that there are perhaps three or four layers of law-breaking going on here: tax evasion, prostitution, illegal immigration, and human trafficking. Many of the women will be guilty of several of the first three. So it should not be a surprise that they don’t want to flip for the police.

Our decision to make prostitution illegal makes it inherently difficult to police the more serious crimes of human smuggling. I’m not going to say that prostitution is inherently victimless, but for upwards of thirty years, we’ve had calls to legalize it in the belief that the workers would do better…able to talk to the police:

On Nov. 15, two days before the indictment was unsealed, Montgomery police happened upon an armed robbery at a Wheaton brothel while looking for a carjacking suspect. Police said they found four members of the violent Central American gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Two of the men were charged with raping the prostitute after robbing the other men in the brothel at gunpoint, police said. Stack and Wiley said that the brothels are robbed and extorted routinely but that most of those crimes probably go unreported.

(Via Marginal Revolution.)