Local prostitution moving online

TRI-CITIES - You don't see them walking the streets so you might be surprised to think 100 women may be working as prostitutes in our area.

It's really an estimate by experts since the women have really changed their tactics.We looked into the efforts to make arrests.

This is your homeyour parks, your streets, your *town.
Not a place you'd expect to house prostitution.

"These are your girls next door," said F.I.R.M.E Women's Outreach Coordinator Chrystal Piatt.

Chrystal Piatt works as a counselor for former prostitutes.
She says it happens more than you think.

"You can sell a drug once and once you sold it - it's gone. You can sell a girl over and over," explained Piatt.

Police keep up with the ever-changing industry by assigning officers to platforms like backpage and craigslist. But not always - it's a matter of manpower.

Police tell KEPR it may not be a victimless crime, but say it's rare to get complaints - only when there's a minor involved.

"Just like pornography, they're doing it in the secret corners of their own house on their own computers," said Kennewick Police Sergeant Ken Lattin.

Before the Internet, police say it was easy to turn up to 35 prostitutes in just one weekend in the Tri-Cities.
Now, just a handful of arrests crop up every year.
Just four prostitution arrests were made in Pasco last year - and four the year before.
Richland and Kennewick have minimal numbers as well.

Despite the low arrests, police believe the crime is trending up -- following the popularity of pornography.

"And that industry is not slowing down," added Sgt. Lattin.

Counselors tell Action News our local prostitution industry is gang-based -- not pimp-driven.

REPORTER: "and between what ages?"
CHYRSTAL PIATT: "probably about 14-19/20."

Girls are exchanged between here and Seattle.
Counselors like Piatt don't believe most women are doing this by choice.

"But they're still somebody's daughter. They're still somebody's sister - they need help," said Piatt.

Help to get off the streets -- and out of the shadows.

The legal penalty for prostitution is $250. Potential jail time is up to the courts.