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The Seattle that Alisha knows is not a city of social liberalism or glittering scenery.


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Why is there so much prostitution on Aurora Avenue in North Seattle? So when the pimp comes here with his girls, he comes to the track. Update: We photographed Ericka when she was a sex worker.

This is her life now. The track is a stretch of road where prostitutes walk.

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Teen girls are pimped on Pacific Highway South; older women, many of them finds, end up on Aurora. The wheels were set in motion for Aurora to become a place for pimping and prostitution in the s. More people had cars, and the middle class wanted to get out and explore America. Ro like Aurora were paved so cars could speed out of town. Motels and filling stations popped up alongside. But this motor utopia declined. Jet travel replaced cars. Interstate 5 replaced Aurora. It became, in a prostitute sort of way, a neighborhood that Seattleites viewed as seedy.

Aurora had always been transient, even in its heyday. With cheaper motels, it was the go-to place for pimps and prostitutes when police cracked down on prostitution in downtown Seattle in the s. On a recent rainy night, Sgt. Thomas Umporowicz drove up and down Aurora between North 90th and North th streets. Umporowicz he the vice squad at the Seattle Police Department. His detectives are undercover, posing as johns. Cheap motels are another reason prostitution thrives on Aurora. The older motels offer some of the cheapest lodging in the city.

Others allow it passively, but others help the pimps. Police busted a motel like that earlier this year. Just driving by, they knew something was amiss. When Gomez and her find friend Miranda were 15, they both had what she called major issues at home. Then they met two men in a grocery store parking lot.

Plains, Trains And Those nice guys were pimps. One took Gomez, the aurora took Miranda.

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Unlike drugs, the girls were a renewable resource — the pimps could sell them again and again. Miranda later turned to heroin, which Gomez said happens a lot on Aurora.

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The johns know it too — and will offer even less money for sex because of it. For these women, life on Aurora becomes an endless cycle of getting just enough money to survive. Gomez called it the gerbil wheel. After 15 years, Gomez got out.

But Miranda stayed. Years later she died of kidney failure. She had spent more than half her life as a prostitute. Her organization offers a break from the track, a space where women can begin to imagine a way out of the life. A detective pulled up with a woman in the passenger seat. She was drenched and had two black eyes. She had been sleeping outside for the last month. And she was hungry.

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This detective will talk to you about the services we can offer. In the s, when Umporowicz was new on the force, the Seattle Police Department arrested a record 2, prostitutes in one year. But most of those women returned to the street right after being released. Umporowicz has heard people argue that prostitution is a victimless crime that should be legalized.

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That understanding has changed how Seattle police have cracked down on prostitution in the last five years. Detectives now connect women to service providers like Gomez and crack down on the customers instead.

Coronavirus pandemic creates riskier market for seattle's sex workers

Another reason there is so much prostitution on Aurora Avenue North is because there are buyers here. Umporowicz and Gomez said it is ultimately up to the buyers — until men stop cruising Aurora, this road will remain a track. Submit any question about Seattle, the Puget Sound region, or its people via the form below. Every month, KUOW editors pick three questions and ask our listeners to vote on their favorite. Whichever question gets the most votes is then investigated by a KUOW reporter.

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Ericka is one of 50 to 60 prostitutes who work on Aurora Avenue North, known as a track. This is one of two tracks where prostitutes work in the Seattle area. Photographer Mike Kane followed her one evening, separately from the story below. By Posey Gruener Dec 20, at pm. This is her life now The track is a stretch of road where prostitutes walk.

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He could tell she was a prostitute. The woman ambled along, looked over her shoulder and tried to make contact with cars driving by. A few motels have become places where pimps and prostitutes live and do drugs. After Miranda died, Gomez spoke with a woman who had worked with her. Back on Aurora, Sgt. Umporowicz was parked in a dark lot behind the Home Depot. Police believe it will be more effective — and fair — than booking the women. This brings us to the last answer to your question, Beth.