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This is first story in a five-part series on prostitution in Los Angeles. See part 2 , part 3 , part 4 , and part 5. A woman dressed in dark shorts and a tank top with a plunging neckline stands on a corner on Lankershim Boulevard in Sun Valley on a gray early morning. She shifts her weight from side-to-side watching the cars and trucks drive by. Lankershim Boulevard is a well-known prostitution track prone to u-turns, slow moving traffic, curbside chats and used condoms thrown out on parking lots.
Drab warehouses and mechanic shops, a small gritty truck stop, and the ever-busy Interstate 5 highway flank the boulevard. But residents in this area want to change that. She said the women use the restaurant bathroom to change or clean themselves. Alvarez often closes the store at night and takes the bus home. Businesses told their story to the L. Daily News about the streetwalkers and johns.
LAPD has arrested more than 70 men and women in undercover operations this spring. One john arrested was Mitchell Tharp , 49, an L. County Department of Public Works employee. Another was Mark Anthony Morton , a human services aide with the L. County Department of Children and Family Services. There are two high schools less than two miles west from Lankershim.
And although the prostitutes and johns solicit on the main drag, they usually park in abandon grassy lots within the neighborhood or have a car date right outside houses along the curb.
Police and prosecutors say the majority of the women they arrest on Lankershim are between the ages of 20 and Most have several convictions on their record. Washington said there are layers behind layers of why women turn to prostitution. For her it was making enough money to survive and being in an abusive relationship. If it was money and abuse that got Washington into the life, drugs kept her there.