Ventura police have completed an undercover sweep of prostitution activity in the downtown area, arresting 18 suspected prostitutes and customers in the two-day operation, authorities said Friday.
Acting on complaints from residents and merchants, police arrested eight women Wednesday on suspicion of soliciting undercover officers, said Ventura Police Sgt. Carl Handy. One woman was also arrested for violating her parole.
On Thursday, the special police enforcement team arrested 10 men on suspicion of soliciting a female officer who posed as a prostitute and charged one of the men with possession of a handgun, Handy said.
The sweep between the 400 and 1800 blocks of East Thompson Boulevard was conducted because of an increase in complaints, said Ventura Police Lt. Michael Tracy.
"It is a problem area," Tracy said. "By conducting a sweep, we hope to give the message to both sides that prostitution is unacceptable downtown. It's a way to keep the problem in check."
On Friday, employees of businesses in the area said they were grateful for the police operation.
"Prostitution has been an ongoing problem around here for the 13 years I've been here," said the manager of one business who asked not to be identified.
Particularly affected are women employees in the neighborhood, who are sometimes approached and solicited by strangers during walks, the manager said.
Another merchant who asked not to be identified said prostitution does not greatly affect her retail business, adding that it is just a part of the downtown scene.
"There's all sorts of curious goings-on downtown," the merchant said.