News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2007

Decatur officers arrest 6 in stings

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

A female officer posing as a prostitute received offers of money, drugs and employment during stings, Decatur police said Thursday.

Sgt. Faron White of the Organized Crime Unit said complaints received during recent City Council district meetings led to the undercover operation, which netted six people on drug, prostitution and solicitation charges.

One of the suspects, Gary Duane Elder, 39, of Trinity was basically a pimp who "tried to get the female officer to go to work for him as a prostitute," White said.

Elder faces a charge of third-degree promoting prostitution.

Another man, Phillip Bernard Harris, 28, of Decatur had cocaine and ecstasy on him and offered the officer drugs in exchange for services, White said.

An associate of Harris, Tavares Dehawn Patrick, 28, of Decatur, was also arrested for allegedly possessing cocaine and marijuana, White said.

The two men were in the same car when police made their move.

Police charged Harris with soliciting prostitution and two counts of possessing a controlled substance. Patrick faces charges of possessing a controlled substance and second-degree possession of marijuana.

Another man, Robert Foster Tweedy Jr., 26, of Decatur, was charged in a separate incident with soliciting prostitution and possessing prescription pills.

White said tips about Victoria Mae Durham, 33, of Somerville led to her arrest on a prostitution charge and the arrest of a customer, Noe Gomez Castro, 45, of Haleyville on a charge of soliciting prostitution.

"We observed him pick her up, and they were caught in the act. They had pulled over beside a building," White said.

All of the prostitution and solicitation charges are misdemeanors.

White did not disclose the exact times or locations of the stings, but said police activities took place in several areas of town during late March and this month.

The stings are part of an ongoing operation spurred by citizen complaints, he said.

Police Chief Ken Collier had assured residents police were taking steps to deal with both prostitutes and their customer base.

A woman who at the District 1 community meeting earlier this month and said she is tired of streetwalkers propositioning her husband was just one of the complainants, White said.

"We had other complaints where ladies were walking down the road and guys were trying to solicit them. They were normal, everyday citizens being solicited," he said.

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