Regulars at the Coeur d’Alene Casino began complaining early this year that they were being approached by prostitutes, says the tribe’s Public Relations Director Heather Keen. The resort casino’s security team had been noticing suspicious activity, too.
They reached out to the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police for assistance. The CdA cops sought guidance from the Kalispel Tribal Police, the Airway Heights Police and the Spokane Police Department, Keen says. The Washington law enforcement agencies had successfully cut down on
prostitution at Washington casinos in 2012 and were able to provide suggestions on staging a sting operation.
With the help of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, tribal police swooped in April 29, taking eight suspected prostitutes into custody. The team returned the evening of April 30 hoping to arrest a few johns, but word about the enforcement action had gotten out on social media and only one man was arrested.
“Several social media posts were being made warning of the 'prostitution sting' at the Casino,” says Lieutenant Stu Miller in a press release. “Which ultimately aided in the goal to reduce the number of prostitutes in Kootenai County.”
The women who were arrested are all in Kootenai County Jail awaiting $300 in bail money. In Idaho the mugshots of arrestees are made available to the public (not a thing in Washington, where the state law keeps it classy, eliminating the clickbait mugshot galleries that are so ubiquitous in states like Oregon and Montana), so the women arrested in the bust had their photographs featured on the evening news. Even the Spokesman
listed the names of the arrested women.
Such sex worker shaming seems like a dubious move in Spokane, where police are moving away from treating sex workers as criminals and are instead trying to better connect them with social services. Instead of arresting prostitutes, Spokane police have been focusing on criminalizing the demand side of the sex trade
. Recent enforcement actions have focused on arresting the men who patronize prostitutes
, not on making things even more difficult for the women who sell sex to survive.
The women arrested range in age from 18 to 46. Six are from Washington and four from Spokane.
“As Washington law enforcement agencies have been conducting similar enforcement operations, prostitution activities have been migrated to the Kootenai County area,” wrote the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office in a press release. Keen couldn’t say for sure why the casino has seen such an influx of prostitution activity this year. She’s just relieved the enforcement action succeeded in sending the activity back out of sight.
“It was a success,” says Keen. “The bottom line is public safety, keep it clean and keep it safe.”