Prostitution bust highlights problem in North Knoxville neighborhood

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- 5 women were busted in an undercover prostitution sting. Cops got several calls complaining about hookers in the area and Tuesday, they went under cover in a couple of neighborhoods North and East Knoxville.

Constant traffic and mom and pop shops keep the area around North Central Street busy all day, but it's the business that goes on at night that's the problem for locals, who are used to seeing prostitutes in the neighborhood.

"You can always tell because of the way they're walking up and down the street. They're always looking around...They're always trolling, always looking for that customer," said Rankin Restaurant owner Donna Kennedy.

Some who work in the area added, no place (or time) is off limits. John Crooks, the Marketing and Communications Director for the Emerald Youth Foundation, which is based out of an office on North Central St., said, "There have been some instances where we've had to ask them to leave the property of some of the churches we work with."

Kennedy continued, "We come in really early in the mornings, and the girls will actually be around at that time of the morning, like 3:30. And then we see them all day. I don't know when they sleep."

Tuesday police arrested 5 women all for prostitution. The warrants say each one agreed to perform oral sex with an undercover cop for money.

"I think it all stems from the drug problem. And that's the ruination of everything," added Kennedy. She said she's glad the ladies are off the street, but she knows it won't make much of a difference.

"There's always going to be 5 more to take their place."

And it's not for lack of police presence. All of the people we spoke with told us the police are constantly patrolling the area, but when there's a bust on one block, the girls just relocate to another one.

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