Tricks of the Trade

Loose laws have turned Denver into an easy place for hookers to do business, but the fun's about to end.

"We've approached our state representatives, and we didn't get much of an encouraging response," says Corvelli. "They directed us back to our city council."

State representative Rosemary Marshall, who represents residential areas on both sides of East Colfax, says, "It's important for state lawmakers to be very careful not to do anything to supersede the city's authority to deal with this on a local level." However, Marshall says she's researching the Texas law as well as other recently enacted statewide prostitution measures. "My plan is to do something legislatively next year," she adds. State senator Penfield Tate, who represents the same neighborhoods, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this story,

Lieutenant Mark Leone says he likes the idea of making a third prostitution conviction a felony in Colorado, but he doesn't think it will ever happen, since prostitution in Colorado is viewed as Denver's problem.

John Johnston
Clean it up: Pamela Corvelli takes a broom to prostitution on Colfax.
John Johnston
Clean it up: Pamela Corvelli takes a broom to prostitution on Colfax.

"Gunnison doesn't care about the working girls in Denver, and Gunnison doesn't want to pay to enforce state prison time for a girl who's selling her tail on East Colfax," he says. "As a practical matter, I just don't think we're going to see much of anything instituted as a statewide measure."

Arguably, the best solution to the problem of prostitution in Denver is the one with the least chance of being realized: legalize it.

"In our neighborhood, after what we've experienced, to be honest with you, I think most of us would like to see prostitution legalized, taxed and licensed, so we get the gals off the streets and into homes," says Corvelli.

"Where I grew up, in southern Oklahoma, the town brothel was down the street and around a corner, and you never saw the gals. The rules were on the front door: 'No smoking, no alcohol, you must be clean-shaven, and no boots in bed.' The windows were heavily draped, and it was just never a problem. I don't see why we couldn't do that here. At the very least, it would get rid of the pimps."

Leone would love to do that. "The pimps are modern-day slavers," he says. "And they're proud of it." The cop references an article in the April issue of Scientific American, "The Social Psychology of Modern Slavery."

Part of it reads:

"A commonality among different forms of modern slavery is the psychological manipulation they all involve. The widely held conception of a slave is someone in chains who would escape if they had half a chance. That view is naive. Force, violence, and coercion have convinced most slaves to accept their condition. When slaves begin to accept their role and identity with their master, constant physical bondage becomes unnecessary. They come to perceive their situation not as a deliberate action taken to harm them but as part of the normal, if regrettable, scheme of the world."

"You find a lot of the same attitudes in the pimp-to-prostitute relationship," Leone says. Which is what makes it so hard to bust pimps on a felony charge of furthering prostitution. "We've got the laws already; the only problem is proving it."

Leone uses Kid Rock as an example. "I could pull him over for the illegally altered suspension on his vehicle. And say I find him with $3,000 in cash, two women dressed like hookers and a phone book with a dozen girls' phone numbers. So what? To make a case against him, we have to prove his income comes from prostitution activity. To prove his income comes from prostitution, we need a prostitute who will testify against him," explains Leone.

"Pimps have these girls so brainwashed, that hardly ever happens. The only time I've ever known a girl to turn on her pimp is when that pimp's other girls start showing up dead. Then they come to us. Otherwise, they're loyal to the end."

There is a billboard above Colfax, just east of Monaco Parkway, offering $200 to any cocaine-addicted woman who will undergo either sterilization or a long-term surgical birth-control procedure paid for by the California-based organization C.R.A.C.K. (Children Require a Caring Kommunity).

Laticia, a Denver streetwalker, pays this billboard no mind as she marches beneath it toward Motel 9. To her way of thinking, $200 at some point in the future is nothing compared to the $20 in the pocket of her grimy blue jeans, money she just earned for performing oral sex on a man in the front seat of his car. Twenty dollars will buy Laticia three rocks of cocaine at Motel 9. Three rocks are enough to keep her high for about an hour, maybe two if she rations carefully, which she always tells herself she will and then never does.

This is Laticia's life: Suck a dick for $20, buy crack, get high, crash, repeat.

Licking her lips in anticipation, she arrives at Motel 9, at Colfax and Xanthia Street. On the sidewalk outside is another crack whore who has been less lucky finding customers this night. She senses Laticia has money and begins begging her like a subterranean Wimpy imploring Popeye: "I will gladly pay you Thursday for a hit of crack today."

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