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Layton • She and the customer agreed on a price. He stripped down to his boxer shorts, and her to her underwear.

Then a police officer entered the room. Actually, it was a second police officer. The woman, who was working as an escort and prostitute, had agreed to sell sex to an undercover police officer.

The sting wasn't in some run-down motel in a big city — it was at a home in Layton. Police here have been aggressively pursuing prostitution, even luring prostitutes and johns from other cities to arrest them in Layton.

Layton police have arrested 134 people suspected of prostitution-related crimes since early 2008. By comparison, Denver police made 40 such arrests in that span. Salt Lake City police made 752.

The arrests may be deterring more crimes. Layton police Sgt. Pete Davis said some of the prostitutes he and his investigators have tried to set up have said they won't go to Layton. The prostitute arrested in the sting earlier this year said she's changed her ways.

"I haven't done anything since because I don't like jail," said the woman, who agreed to talk to The Salt Lake Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

Layton doesn't have women in skimpy clothing offering sex on street corners. But Police Chief Terry Keefe began worrying five years ago about people posting ads on the Internet offering or seeking sex in Layton. Some of the ads offered unprotected sex, Keefe said, and he was worried about people contracting HIV and other diseases.

"It has, obviously, a public health nexus," Keefe said.

Stings have targeted both male and female prostitutes, Davis said. A few arrested prostitutes have agreed to help police run stings to catch johns.

A July 1 john sting netted Farmington police Lt. Shane Whitaker, who has since resigned. He pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor count of patronizing a prostitute. A judge sentenced him to one year of probation, 48 hours of community service and a $750 fine.

Whitaker also had to submit to the court proof he received an HIV test.

Prostitutes charge from $80 to $600 an hour, usually based on their appearances, Davis said. Some are trying to support a drug habit and others are trying to support a family, he said.

"They're being exploited," Davis said.

Davis said while all the male and a few of the female prostitutes work independently, others work for escort services that take a percentage of the money.

Many of the prostitutes busted in Layton are from cities up and down the Wasatch Front. Davis said Layton detectives will browse online advertisements from prostitutes or escorts in Salt Lake City or Ogden, contact the person and ask if he or she will travel to Layton. If the suspect makes the trip and agrees to exchange money for sex, Layton police make the arrest.

The willingness of Layton police to lure suspects who don't even live in Davis County disturbs defense attorney Michael Studebaker.

"If that's not borderline entrapment, I don't know what is," said Studebaker. "Really, we have nothing better to do than drag people up from Salt Lake County on a Craigslist ad?"

Studebaker has represented one prostitute arrested by Layton police. He said his client, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of prostitution, had to take the train to get to Layton.

"If they're concerned about STDs … maybe we should put a little more money into education and give [police] some services to keep people off the street," Studebaker said.

The former prostitute who spoke to The Tribune also does not understand the need for prostitution stings. She went to work for an escort service to support her two children after her boyfriend went to jail, she said.

She said she charged $300 an hour and made about $1,200 a week. She called working as an escort and prostitute "glamorous" and would encourage other women to go into it.

"It's like a restaurant. You're providing a service," she said.

The woman declined to help Layton police conduct a sting for johns, she said. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of sexual solicitation, received credit for the four days she spent in jail after her arrest, and was ordered to spend 18 months on probation, pay an $800 fine and take an HIV test.

Layton police contend the prostitution stings help people stay safe. Keefe said he has received three letters from wives of busted johns. The women thanked him for arresting their husbands so they learned they might be exposed to HIV, he said.

And Davis said undercover officers made a disturbing discovery a few weeks ago: a 16-year-old runaway girl from Oregon working as a prostitute. Davis believes it is a case of human trafficking because a gang member was acting as her pimp and taking the girl all over the West.

Police took the girl to a juvenile center, but she ran away within a few hours, Davis said. The FBI is looking for her and investigating the case, Davis said.

"Ultimately, we do not want people to come here for these kinds of activities," Davis said.

Prostitution laws

It is a Class B misdemeanor to solicit prostitution or patronize a prostitute. However, someone convicted of a second offense of soliciting prostitution can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. Class B's are punishable by up to six months in jail; Class A's are punishable by up to one year in jail. Both convicted prostitutes and johns are required to submit to HIV tests.