Policing the Vice Squad

Investigations launched into money collected from massage parlor workers

"The vice unit keeps its own copies of everything," Strong says. "They do their own accounting. It's our normal procedure."

So far, the vice squad has allowed only a few glimpses into its bookkeeping practices. What little has been revealed seems to raise even more questions.

For instance, the Police Department says that during fiscal year 1998 -- which ran from July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1998 -- vice accepted checks totaling somewhere between $7,200 and $7,500. But records from the CCDS diversion program appear to show that, in just the last six months of that fiscal year, there were about 370 arrests. If each of those women paid just $75 to vice, the total would be in excess of $25,000 for just one-half of the fiscal year.

History also seems to cast doubts on the scant financial data vice officials have been willing to release. During fiscal year 1997 -- which ran from July 1, 1996, to June 3, 1997 -- the vice unit says it collected $77,000 from arrested massage parlor workers, more than 10 times the figure claimed for fiscal year 1998.

But during the past two years, both the vice squad and Hallinan have boasted that they have been cracking down on massage parlors and making more arrests. The vice squad has yet to explain how arrests can increase while the amount of money coming in declines tenfold.

Some of the answers, presumably, will be forthcoming as the vice squad and police officials respond to inquiries from Yee and the Controller's Office.

In the meantime, Assistant DA Silard says Hallinan has decided to stop diverting massage parlor cases to CCDS. Instead, arrested massage parlor workers will now be sent to the Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) program, which already handles the cases of arrested streetwalkers. The SAGE program offers job training, counseling, health services, English-as-a-second-language programs, and other assistance to help women get out of the sex industry.

Under the change, women arrested at massage parlors presumably will now be funneled into an actual diversion program. And, not coincidentally, the SAGE program does not include a method for the vice squad to collect money.

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