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CBS4 Investigates: Sex Remains For Sale In South Florida

MIAMI (CBS4) - The world's oldest profession turns up new victims every night. There are two ongoing sting operations designed to crack down on south Florida's prostitution problem.

One operation targets the hookers. The other detail targets the men who solicit their services. The problem is the worst along 79th Street and Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.

It seems no matter what police officers do, there is little that can be done to eradicate the problem which is why the men keep soliciting women and vice versa.

Caught in the middle of this vicious circle is a community trying to rebuild. CBS4 went along for an undercover sting operation to see, first hand, how the problem has plagued a community.

We saw the men excusing their behavior and the women providing little excuses for a life they have chosen to lead. As a result, there are two sides creating one persistent problem.

"They tend to stay in certain areas where they know people will find them. Places like 70th Street and Biscayne Boulevard are locations where people know where they can see or find prostitution," Sergeant Edwin Gomez of Miami Police's Crime Suppression Unit told CBS4's Jorge Estevez.

At one point, we were there as one man in a black truck kept circling the block eyeing the undercover female police officer posing as a prostitute. He was busted for soliciting a prostitute.

"I am out of rehab. I have an addiction you know," said Thomas Simon to CBS4's Jorge Estevez.

"Addicted to what," asked Estevez.

"To girls," answered Simon.

A recovery that ended tonight when Simon admitted he was on his way to a sex addict meeting when he pulled over for the undercover police officer posing as a prostitute.

Supplying his demand are women like Spirit Long who was interviewed by Estevez after her own arrest that night as part of a different sting operation.

"Would you consider yourself as giving sex for money," asked Estevez

"Absolutely," said Long who says she has fallen into the pattern of turning to prostitution just to get by.

"I ended up on the streets. I was homeless and selling my body to make money and survive," said Long.

But as history repeats itself, the outcome will most likely not have a happy ending for the people involved in the cycle of paying for sex.

"For me to take myself out of this social environment and put myself back into a normal situation would be very difficult at this point," said Long.

And what happens on the streets affects everyone in all communities.

"Businesses, restaurants, schools and residents - It just looks horrible for the area," said Detective Luis Camacho of the Miami police department Crime Suppression Unit.

The arrests seem to be working.

In 2009, police arrested 280 people involved in prostitution. In 2010, that number grew to 444 people. In 2011, police arrested 544. So far this year, in 2012, police nabbed 118 people. All arrests include prostitutes, Johns, Pimps Drivers and Hotel Operators.

It's good news for the owner of the New Yorker - a hotel on Biscayne Blvd - a strip known for solicitation problems. Owner Shirley Diaz wants to see even more crackdowns to help clean up the area and boost her hotels business with legitimate customers.

"I think it is great that they are doing this. We have been trying to clean up this area for years," said Diaz.

And to prove this is an impossible problem to tackle; police officers admit often times, they arrest the same women twice in one night.  And as long as there are willing participants on both sides of this problem there will truly always be prostitution, which is why it is called the oldest profession.

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