NOPD: prostitution, drug sales, lewd activity uncovered at some local strip clubs

NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said an effort by his officers, State Police and the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control recently uncovered alleged acts of prostitution and drug dealing in some French Quarter strip clubs. And now the clubs liquor licenses are suspended, at least temporarily.

"The party atmosphere and the culture of Bourbon Street is harmed when businesses and criminals take advantage of the environment to engage in illegal activity," Harrison said.

For months, the NOPD has partnered with the other agencies in an undercover operation.

"Every business we shuttered was found to have multiple instances of prostitution committed on the premises. Half of the eight we closed to date were found to have narcotics offenses. We've uncovered 70 violations to date,” Harrison said.

According to documents provided by the ATC, the affected businesses are Scores, Rick’s Cabaret, Stilletto’s, Temptations, Dixie Divas, Rick’s Sporting Saloon, Hustler Barely Legal and Hunk Oasis.

Authorities said the goal of the undercover operation is to end human trafficking, but they admitted that none of the alleged crimes discovered so far involve the trafficking of humans.

Although there were no human trafficking arrests made in this particular operation, there have been more than 30 cases of prostitution as well as drug cases and lewd acts found within the establishments,” said ATC Commissioner Juana Marine Lombard.

FOX 8 News went to each of the clubs and also called them. But only one manager responded and said he had no comment.

Covenant House helps at-risk youth. That's why Executive Director Jim Kelly says the recent undercover operation cracking down on human trafficking is a good start.

"Is it taking place in every single club? Of course not. But is human trafficking taking place in strip clubs? Yes," said Kelly. "The chief did talk about some potential arrests of pimps. Well, if there is pimps involved there's a good chance that there's force, fraud or coercion, and if there is force, fraud or coercion involving a pimp and a woman involved in prostitution, that's human trafficking."

 Some groups representing businesses and residents in the French Quarter reacted to the sting.

"Certainly, if there's crime of any kind in the Quarter, frankly anywhere in the city, we hope that law enforcement will intervene and crack down on it, and so in that light this is good news,” said Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of Vieux Carre’ Property Owners, Residents and Associates also called VCPORA.

While the French Quarter is filled with businesses, it is also a place where a lot of people live.

"The French Quarter is a mixed-use neighborhood, and one of those mixes is the residential element which is why the Quarter is still considered an authentic place. So people who live here always appreciate when they can have a reasonable expectation of safety,” said Lousteau.

Harrison said the license suspensions are but a first step in the effort to end human trafficking in the area.

"To confront human trafficking in New Orleans and to put the pimps and those who profit from these crimes out of business,” he said.

Hearings for the businesses are set for February 1 and February 6.

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