A few months ago my son and a couple of his friends jumped into my van at the end of the school day and my son informed me that he and a few others had finally decided what they wanted to do for their 13th birthday celebrations.
“We’d like to go for coffee,” he said as a wicked grin spread across his freckled face, “in Vassalboro.”
“Dear God,” I thought, “I’ve got to stop letting that kid watch the morning news.”
Of course, he was referring to Vassalboro’s topless coffee shop, which at the time was dominating newspaper headlines and the local airwaves.
On Tuesday, when the mug shots of the women charged in a Brewer prostitution ring lined the front page, I flipped it upside down before he came downstairs.
That afternoon after school he excitedly asked me if it was true that I had once interviewed Cinnamon Sweets, the alleged madam of the Brewer and Orland-based operation.
Clearly this detail had come up in the casual hallway conversation of the testosterone-driven fiends that are 12-year-old boys. I paused and wondered whether this little factoid was somehow going to make me a hero in my young man’s eyes.
“Yes,” I finally said, “I interviewed Ms. Sweets awhile back.”
“Cool!” he said, “I called her once, too.”
“No, no don’t worry. I just prank-called. We got the number out of the phone book and we thought it was a bakery. I called and asked what kind of pastries they sold.”
I believed his story except for the part about the boys thinking Cinnamon Sweets was an actual bakery, since she was listed in the Yellow Pages under “erotic services.” Somehow I’m pretty sure a gangly group of middle school boys knew exactly what “erotic services” meant.
Prostitution arrests always make for good headlines. The latest bust was the most-read story on the Bangor Daily News Web site for a good part of the week.
I think the most intriguing snippets were tucked way inside — that one of the accused was making a pretty decent tax-free living yet received government assistance to the tune of $10,000 to have a new roof put on her house.
Now that’s enough to tick anyone off.
Perhaps most interesting of all were the records seized from Ms. Sweets’ Orland home. Reportedly there are customers’ names and numbers and credit card receipts. Now that really is sweet.
Brewer police Sgt. Jay Munson is a likable fellow and was kind enough to warn those customers that they might want to get in touch with him before he calls their houses and winds up talking to their wives.
I’m not sure a female police officer would have offered up that opportunity.
But apparently it worked and the department has been getting a few calls from lawyers representing some of these local bad boys.
I’m sure the question posed to Munson is, “What can my client do to make this go away quietly?”
If law enforcement has sufficient proof that someone engaged the women in sex for money, then Munson’s answer should be “nothing.”
There was nothing quiet about the arrests of the prostitutes and there should be nothing quiet about the arrests of those who engaged them.
On Thursday, an unscientific poll published in the BDN showed that 80 percent of 75 respondents believed that the people who solicit prostitutes should be punished equally.
Police often notify the press when they break up a big crime ring, whether it’s drugs or prostitution or burglary. The mug shots of the accused women were published on the front page of the paper.
The men who paid them should expect no less. If the proof is there, they should be prosecuted. The news media need to make sure they don’t lose interest in the case after the women involved pay their fines.
Legalizing prostitution isn’t the answer. It’s a legal business in Nevada, yet it still is not subject to state taxes. Tougher laws aren’t going to make a difference and we certainly don’t have the prison or law enforcement resources for that.
But the underlying threat that the John Does actually may face the same charges as the ladies and have their unflattering mug shots bared before their community might just put a crimp in the market.
Of course, now that I’ve said that I have to hope that my 12-year-old’s cell phone number doesn’t turn up in Ms. Sweets’ phone records.
If it does, Sgt. Munson, you heard it here first. It was just a prank call.