Las Vegas police and prosecutors have launched an unprecedented crackdown on repeat prostitution offenders who operate inside Strip hotels.
As part of the Vice Enforcement Top Offenders (VETO) initiative, the police vice unit created a list of the 50 "most prolific prostitutes" in town, women they say have the longest records of prostitution-related crimes in Southern Nevada.
Working off the list, police have arrested half the women in the past two weeks, mostly for trespassing.
In a memo to prosecutors about VETO cases, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli last month told his staff to offer plea agreements that would include possible jail time and an order that defendants "refrain from entering the resort corridor" for a period of six or 12 months.
City and county ordinances have allowed for so-called "order-out zones" in downtown Las Vegas and the Strip since the late 1990s.
Vice Lt. Karen Hughes said police are serious about putting a dent in prostitution, an activity she says is dangerous and a nuisance to hotel guests.
"A lot of visitors think prostitution is part of the climate and culture, but it’s not legal in Las Vegas and Clark County," Hughes said. "We want to send a strong message that we won’t tolerate a revolving door of prostitution."
Some are criticizing the law enforcement effort as overly aggressive and impractical.
"It seems pretty hypocritical to me to have an economy based on sexualizing women and then to come down on the women when police want to make it seem like they’re enforcing the law," said Barbara Brents, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.