Tyrone Reid, Enterprise Reporter
As the illegal sex trade thrives and becomes more deeply entrenched along the infamous Port Henderson Road in Portmore, St Catherine, the municipality's mayor is calling on the commissioner of police to investigate claims that pimps are luring underage girls from rural Jamaica into the world's oldest profession.
Reports reaching The Sunday Gleaner are that at least one of the prominent figures behind the explosion of the 'Back Road' prostitution frequents the rural parts of the island and entices girls, who are brought back to Port Henderson Road where they become entrapped in the illicit sex trade.
According to a well-placed source, these girls are kept under guard and lock and key. The freedom of the captive young women is limited during the day and they are only given some latitude at nights to work and bring in money for their self-appointed boss.
Keith Hinds, mayor of Portmore, has admitted to hearing the claims and says he is very concerned that the allegations may be true. He told The Sunday Gleaner that while he cannot provide hard evidence to prove categorically that it is happening, he had heard the claims about the girls from rural Jamaica.
"I believe the reports warrant a detailed investigation, and that is why I'm calling on the commissioner of police to check on them," he said.
"If we don't nip this thing in the bud, it is going to jump out and bite us," Hinds warned, claiming he was "aware that a lot of the young girls who go missing end up on the Port Henderson Road".
The explosion of prostitution along the strip in Portmore has also brought with it extortion and gun-running, the mayor said.
"A wise guy says 'I can protect you'. What is he going to protect her with, a fudge stick?" the mayor asked rhetorically.
Pleading for help
Hinds, who suggested that the Government should look into the matter, stressed that the Portmore Municipal Council was unable to handle the problem, and that is why he has been pleading with the police for help.
"It is a police matter, and one that central government will have to look at," he urged. "I have spoken to the police about the problem. There are times when police will make a raid here and there, but there is no consistency … . By the next day, the girls are back on the road," Hinds said.
A former prostitute confirmed that girls, some of them underage, were being brought from the rural parishes to Port Henderson Road. "The pimps get the girls from the country, and you know them because you hear it in their accent," she said. "I don't like to see it," said the former prostitute, who worked independently of the pimps while she was involved in the sex trade for 18 months.
She added: "There are definitely pimps around there. Most of them (pimps) trick the girls, work them and don't give them anything."
The one-time lady of the night suggested that the girls don't try to escape, because the pimps threaten them with bodily harm if they are caught trying to leave.
Cops among clients
She also told The Sunday Gleaner that cops are among the regular Back Road customers. While some come in their uniforms to solicit, others do it in street clothes, the former sex worker said.
"A lot of them come in their uniform. Sometimes a whole jeepload come and buy in them uniform. They run the street a lot and take advantage of the girls," she said. However, while there are bad cops roaming the Port Henderson strip, the one-time prostitute said good cops also come out to Back Road at nights. "They make sure that we are protected. They check regularly and if they see too many guys around us, they will stop, come out the car and say, 'Good night ladies, is everything OK?' Sometimes they will search (the men) to see if they have any weapons," she explained.As a show of appreciation for the protection offered by the cops, she and her former colleagues would buy the policemen drinks. The cops usually visit the Portmore hot spot between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. said the former sex worker. "Some of them go in the rooms. They take turns while their friends watch their head back. Sometimes it's the same girl for all of them or they use different girls ... four of them to one girl sometimes," she said.
The repentant prostitute said she has never witnessed the cops having sex in their marked cars, but she has seen policemen take girls back to their personal vehicles to transact 'business'.