Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Irvin Atkins has lived in the Palm Air area for more than 30 years, and throughout that time, he's seen prostitution activity from nearby Airline Highway spill into the neighborhood.
"They be flashing and all kinds of stuff, and you'd see all kinds of strange people coming in cars riding around the block," Atkins said.
Rory Hebert, who lives just down the block, agreed.
"It's bringing the neighborhood down," he said.
But Tuesday, the NOPD announced Airline Highway was one of three areas targeted in a recent reverse prostitution sting.
Superintendent Ronal Serpas said the effort was all about catching the men -- or Johns, as they’re called -- trying to solicit the crimes.
"Female police officers pretending to be prostitutes work the streets where we know we have many complaints from our citizens and our community members about the scourge of prostitution on their block and in their street," Serpas said.
The operation led to the arrests of 29 men on charges of soliciting prostitution and crimes against nature.
The reverse strategy is important, officials say, as the men are just as guilty in helping to drive this illegal industry.
"We do target the prostitutes, and we did that and we're gonna do that again, but it's just a different angle to disrupt the organization and disrupt the flow of business for prostitution," said Cmdr. Michael Harrison with NOPD’s Specialized Investigations Division.
The sting covered areas in three NOPD districts -- including the 3500 block of Tulane Avenue, the 7800 block of Chef Menteur, and the 900 block of Airline -- during a recent eight-day period.
Officials hope this and other operations like it can create a ripple effect in curtailing other problems.
"Prostitution is a crime of addiction and violence and it's important that we do can to interrupt it whenever we can," Serpas said.
For folks in the Palm Air neighborhood, it's a step in the right direction.
"What better time than now to get this stuff away from here," Hebert said.