PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Police Department has been bogged down with problems lately.
Chief Nate Harper was essentially fired amid an FBI investigation into misused city funds.
Now, two Pittsburgh Police officers were involved in separate St. Patrick’s Day scuffles. One of those incidents is reportedly being looked at by the FBI.
However, for every misstep, there are Pittsburgh Police officers risking their lives every day and night.
They often put themselves in dangerous situations while walking the streets.
KDKA-TV’s Heather Abraham got to spend several nights undercover with the Pittsburgh Vice Squad as they work to keep the streets safe.
A woman walks the streets alone. Pacing, waiting for a customer. A business where a small amount of money can buy sexual desires. Her first night on the street was eight years ago.
She’s living her life not as a prostitute, but as an undercover cop.
“It shows you a part of life I certainly didn’t know anything about before this,” she said.
Her identity, like all members of the Pittsburgh Vice Squad she works with, must remain a secret. One of the most essential and basic tools that help them make arrests. Every night she joins dozens of other women on the streets throughout the city.
Her goal is to rid the streets of the lustful crime, knowing all too well the compromising situations girls put themselves in.
“It just leads you to wonder how these girls get in these cars and go off with these people they don’t know, never met and trust them to not hurt them,” she said. “They’re doing something dangerous every night and could just not come home.”
The mother of two knows that dangers exist for her while working undercover. Many of the Johns and women are found with drugs and weapons. Some are heavily intoxicated and easily agitated.
“I had a couple incidences where I was worried about the person I was talking to and whether or not they’d get violent,” she said.
While it may be dangerous work, female officers working the streets said they generally feel safe. They know they’re never alone.
Others in the squad patiently stand watch with an eye kept on their role-playing colleague at all times looking for distress signals and quickly jumping into action when the bait is taken.
Their lives become entangled in the street life. The characters they meet often have sad stories to tell.
A 36-year-old woman named Leslie was five months pregnant and left her two children at home on the cold January night we met her. She said that initially she turned to the streets because of an addiction. But that night, she needed to make fast cash for rent or face eviction.
“There’s a lot of things you can’t imagine doing, obviously,” Leslie said. “It’s very scary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s scary. Truthfully and honestly, it’s very scary.”
The task of hooking the players in the prostitution game switches back and forth from the female detectives to the men. During our ride along, male detectives booked a date with a transsexual at an area hotel, which is equally as dangerous.
It’s a business that’s non-stop and keeps the Pittsburgh Vice Squad busy at all times.
In 2012, they made 298 arrests for prostitution and detectives said as quickly as they arrest one woman or another John, more are entering the business.
“Every week, we’re arresting someone new that we haven’t seen. It’s a sad state of affairs, but that’s the reality,” one male detective said.