California Penal Code Section 647(b)(1) – “An individual who solicits, or who agrees to engage in, or who engages in, any act of prostitution with the intent to receive compensation, money, or anything of value from another person.”
Six Months after I finished the Field Training phase of being a rookie police officer in San Francisco, I was assigned to what was lyingly advertised to be “The best job in the department!”
In their weekly expose’ of things that get public attention, (and therefore sell more newpaper$), the San Francisco Comical (spelling intentional) had front page banner headlines shouting definitively that sex and drugs, and not rock and roll, was making it “impossible for an honest citizen to even walk down Mission Street!”
This became an immediate political pain in the swivel chair for Chief of Police Kevin Dougherty who had only 2 years left until he could retire to his salmon fishing boat that was currently moored dock-side at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Accordingly, the word went out: Put all the rookies on foot beat!
Because of a hiring binge, the department now had sufficient personnel to re-institute city-wide foot patrols that hadn’t been possible for the last decade. My academy class having just survived the “we don’t hesitate, we terminate!” FTO period at Mission Station got to be some of the blue-suited guinea pigs.
My partner Rick and I became the 3 David 42 team that was to patrol the feloniously inclined Mission Street just to keep the chief’s full retirement plans moving forward. We got to have a couple of very senior officers show us around about four blocks of the 32 squares that was our new assignment.
Their parting wisdom included:
- Don’t drink too much on duty and remember to use breath mints before you have to talk to the lieutenant.
- Don’t run a tab at any of the local bars, only sergeants can do that.
- Don’t take freebees from the hookers on duty.
- Don’t get “loans” or hock firearms at any of the 11 pawn shops on Mission Street.
- Make sure you write LOTS of parking tickets because it makes the captain look good and makes the city money. Afterall, our COLA step raise is on the budget for June!
After about three months of grinding the broken smelly concrete on Mission Street we literally had detained, arrested, fought with, or poured into an ambulance about 55% of the population.
I began keeping track of a lot of our clientele because the best way out of pounding my combat boots into oblivion was to graduate to a district level specialty plain clothes assignment by making lots of arrests.
Capp Street, one narrow block east of Mission Street between 16th and 17th streets was on my beat, and was a depressingly recognized location for bargain basement street prostitution. Daytime, nighttime, almost 24 /7, there were women wearing as little as possible luring basically blue-collar guys all named John into “having a party” in apartment doorways, on top of cardboard boxes in squishy alleyways, or “Just double park your car here, Baby, and I’ll do the rest.”
Yes, a “Half and Half” special only cost $25, and a gal that I knew as “Loose-ie” could make over $500 on a warm payday Friday. The math was disturbing.
Thus, the 647 B book was born.
The mugshots of that era were on 3×5 cards with a space for “contact information” on the back. Every time I ran into one of these casual lover affair merchants on the Whore Stroll, I’d get her SF ID number, and then pull her photo card later on. After a couple hundred encounters, I had three large binders back at the station full of portraits, and I’d also carry a dozen or so mug shots with me of the gals that had large outstanding warrants.
All of the gals had drug addiction problems, some more acute than others. If Stella worked three hours doing “nooners,” she’d make enough for her left arm, two or three fast food meals, and then she’d drink herself unconscious in her Patel Hotel room before it was time for her evening trade regulars to arrive.
And then there was Brenda.
Most of the gals looked pretty much the same: Under-nourished, over-drugged, lowcut un-buttoned blouses (with long sleeves to hide track marks), and easy access shorts or very micro miniskirts with no underwear.
Brenda cut a totally different image with her very voluptuous cleavage on easy display, long ski pants, and a huge natural afro hairstyle that fitted her ebony complexion, and 6’0” stature.
Brenda was a cokehead, and only occasionally skin-popped heroin, which helped her avoid the nasty, usually festering, abscesses that veinous injection of street smack caused the other gals to suffer from.
Yes, Brenda, and more than a few of the gals were registered confidential informants of mine, and fed interesting tidbits of non-prostitutional information to me regularly.
Besides her 44DD profile, and relatively good sense in drug choices, Brenda was also distinguished by her better than average personal hygiene, and self-imposed rigid work schedule. She’d be on her corner at 6 a.m. in front of Dave’s Auto Body to catch the work commuters, leave at around 10 a.m. for a sink-shower at the local car wash bathroom, and be back at noon for the lunch hour trade, after which she would totally vanish until the reverse commute hour at 5:30 p.m.
I found out what was going on by accident one day.
The Station Keeper had me take a radio car late one afternoon to grab some of his favorite cigars and a lunch from upper 24th St.
As I was passing St. Catherine’s Catholic School, I saw Brenda’s very distinctive profile holding hands with a plaid skirted little girl as they walked to a school bus. Brenda was quite conservatively dressed, with a patent leather handbag draped over one shoulder. Even her afro was demure.
A few days later, while Rich was still recovering from a sucker punch to the jaw, I grabbed an unmarked car, and waited around the corner from the girl’s school. Brenda got off the 24T bus at the corner and met the same bundle of smiles as last time.
After they parted company, Brenda walked down the hill to the nearest downslope bus stop by Guerrero Street. I drove quickly to where I could park in that same bus zone, and then stood unseen in the deep entryway of the Castle Rock apartment building.
As she walked by, I called out her name. When she saw me, she did a very credible imitation of the old “deer in a headlights” image.
I asked quietly, “Daughter or Niece?”
She looked down at her sandals and murmured, “Daughter.”
Then, “She lives with my mother and doesn’t know anything about what I am.”
Before she could express the please! in her next words, I said instead, “You’re her mother, and you take care of her the best that you can. That’s all I care about.”
As I walked past her, I said quietly,“I have two daughters at home. I know how important they are and what I’d do to keep them safe and happy.”
The oath I took was to protect and serve … everybody!
Postscript: To my knowledge, Brenda paid for her daughter’s private school costs all the way from 1st grade up to the end of high school. After that, rumor had it that Brenda moved back to Texas, and that her daughter went to a local four-year college on a full academic scholarship.