"Operation Hoppin John" targets solicitation - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

"Operation Hoppin John" targets solicitation

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By Howard Ballou  - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -  We have a special Taking Back Our Neighborhoods report.

You've seen the prostitution sweeps conducted by the Hinds County Sheriff's Department.

This time, 3 On Your Side was with deputies as they cracked down on the people who solicit prostitutes, or "Johns".

It's called "Operation Hoppin John" and you may find some of the arrests surprising. 

Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin begs to differ with anyone who calls prostitution a victimless crime. 

"We know that there are problems that go along with the prostitution," Sheriff McMillin said.

Problems like sexually transmitted disease, drugs, violent crime and more. 

Asked if there are certain parts of the city that prostitution is more prevalent that others.

"We've always had a problem on Highway 80, Terry Road area, I-55 North," Sheriff McMillin said.

The sting, which started at 4:00pm Monday, involved a stretch of Valley Street that intersects with Raymond Road.

With undercover officers strategically placed, deputies had a woman named "Kathy" walk up and down Valley Street to see who would take the bait.

They asked us not to show her face for security reasons.

It only took officers 20 minutes from the start of this operation to make an arrest. 

Julian Delfino, 41 of Rankin County, was the first to be charged with solicitation of prostitution.

Kassie Woodard, 44 of Forest, was arrested minutes later.

"I didn't do nothing though," Woodard said.

It was a similar statement from all of those busted in this sting operation, including Steven Dewitt Shields, 54 of Rankin County, a WalMart pharmacist. 

"I did not solicit her," Shields said.

Travis Berry, 27 of Clinton, said he's innocent, too, even though his pockets were filled with cash and a condom. 

Asked if he offered any money for sex.

"She said $20; told me to pull over," Berry said. "I said ok and kept going. I was just joking about it." 

Also snared in the sting was Kendra Rawls, 31, who has an outstanding warrant for sale of a controlled substance.

Terry Gunn, 53 of Leake County, who just last year, finished serving a 27-year prison stint for a 1983 rape.

In addition to solicitation of prostitution, Gunn is also being charged as a non-compliant sex offender.

Leake County officials now want to talk to him. 

But Gunn wasn't the only felon caught in the sting.

Donald Earl Ray, 33 of Rankin County, is on probation for conspiracy to commit murder. 

WLBT asked Ray if he was trying to solicit a prostitute.

"No, I was not," Ray said. "I was just stopping for a minute to get my cell phone." 

In all 9 "Johns" were nabbed in "Operation Hoppin John".

Antonio Bell, 37 of Jackson, and Darrell Leon Griffin, 43 of Richland, were charged with selling drugs.

"So again, maybe sometimes the public does not understand; they think this is just a misdemeanor, harmless crime, but actually you see pretty much all walks of life when you come out on a prostitution sting," Hinds County Lt. Jeffrey Scott said.

Lieutenant Scott said "Operation Hoppin John" is an ongoing investigation that will focus on street level crimes throughout the Jackson and the Hinds County area. 

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