Crime Trends

Avoiding Prostitutes

Avoiding Prostitutes 1195 1593 Greg Ellifritz

I enjoy a relatively mundane existence in a generic American suburb.  In my normal life, I simply don’t encounter prostitutes at home.  All that changes when I travel in the developing world.

 

I wrote a whole chapter in Choose Adventure about dealing with prostitutes.  For the record, I actually think prostitution should be legal; but it’s not for me.  I have zero interest in banging a woman who is likely an abused drug addict.  The disease risk is too high for me.  Besides that, lots of prostitutes are opportunistic thieves as well.  While you are resting in your post-orgasmic bliss, she is taking your wallet, passport, and phone.

 

No thanks.  In more than 20 years of serious worldwide travel, I’ve never once hired a prostitute, even in places where such conduct is legal.

Some countries are prime destinations for sex tourists.  Guys schedule entire vacations around finding as many call girls as they can.  In countries like this, prostitution is far more noticeable to the uninterested traveler than in other places.

 

I’m in Colombia now.  It has a lot more prostitutes than most of the places I visit.  In fact, when I discuss “running the gauntlet of whores” in my book, I was in Cartagena, Colombia.  Other countries where it’s more obvious are The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica (especially underage sex trafficked girls), Thailand, and the very poor countries of Africa.

 

Many other places have their various “Red Light Districts” but you don’t see many streetwalkers outside those spots.  Most of my readers likely have no experience dealing with prostitutes, so I’m going to outline a few ways you might pick up on the fact that there is sex for sale.  Why do you care?  Because where sex is sold, so are illegal guns and drugs.

 

Some Red Light Districts are easier to spot than others.
This is the “Love Time Hotel” in Rio. I wonder what happens there?

 

The same pimps running the girls are also selling drugs and organizing theft rings.  There is an entire economy based around the sex trade.  Dudes who want girls often also want drugs.  When you watch the ecosystem of a place ripe with prostitutes, you can observe the hookers, the “Johns,” the pimps, the dealers, the pickpockets, and a whole other class of folks looking to prey upon any of those people when they become distracted.

 

Two Colombian women appearing to be prostitutes approached three guys in the street and organize a deal. Viewed last weekend from my third floor hotel balcony.

 

The dudes looking for sex in these areas are perfect victims.  They are often impaired by excessive alcohol and/or drugs.  The bad guys also know that a guy picking up a hooker isn’t likely to call the police to report any type of crime out of fear of being arrested himself or having his activities outed publicly.

 

These sites are really not the safest places to be. They’re probably not where you want to spend much time unless you are looking to be victimized.

 

Many tourists are completely clueless about some of these issues and unintentionally put themselves or their families in danger because they didn’t recognize the subtle indicators.  Let me use my trip to Colombia as an example to provide an education about some of the things you should be paying attention to.

 

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

 

As I was in the taxi going to my hotel from the airport at 2:00am on a Thursday night, I saw a massive number of street prostitutes.  Probably close to 100 girls in a 20-minute ride.  I asked the cabbie about it.  He said that they were a huge problem in the city.

 

The cabbie told me that in Medellin, they call the prostitutes “mujeres divinas,” or “divine women”.  He said the term comes from an old Spanish song by the same title.  Check out the video below.

 

If you don’t speak Spanish, the song is about some guys drinking and talking about all the women who had wronged them in the past, inspiring the creation of some drunken anti-female song lyrics.  In the end, the singers declare that despite all the ways women have wronged them, all women are divine creatures to be adored, no matter their faults.

 

So if you hear the words “mujeres divinas,” the direct translation may not be quite correct. I’d never heard that particular term before.

 

I arrived at the hotel safely.  I was staying at a very trendy and expensive (by Colombian standards) place.  It wasn’t a cheap hourly rate motel in the ‘hood.

 

At registration, the desk clerk warned that the hotel does not allow guests to bring girls under 18 years old back to the room for overnight stays.  All overnight guests must show identification to ensure that people aren’t bringing back underage prostitutes.  The hotel wouldn’t need such a policy if there hasn’t been a problem with it in the past.

 

When you hear of such things, your guard should go up a bit.

 

When I got to my room, I had two more clues that there was a lot of “pay for play” going on in the neighborhood.

 

I don’t ever remember seeing condoms (extra secure at that) available right next to the M&Ms in the hotel room mini-bar in any of the US hotels where I’ve stayed.

 

I then went into the bathroom.  They have a special separate trash can for disposing of said used condoms.

 

Another thing I’ve never seen in the USA.

 

During the weekend, you might see even more prostitutes trying to sell themselves.  I’m staying at a ritzy hotel in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellin.  The security guards chase the hookers away from the entrances so they don’t harass the guests.  So then the women line up on the sidewalk just out of sight of the hotel guard and go to work.

 

Last Saturday night I walked to a restaurant about five minutes away from my hotel to eat dinner.  On my short walk home, eight different hookers directly offered me their services.

 

Another clue that there is a lot of prostitution going on is seeing old Gringo tourists walking hand in hand with very young local girls.  As I strolled the city yesterday I saw an American guy who appeared to be between 65 and 70 years old.  He was holding hands with a local girl who looked to be about 15 as they were walking down the street.  He stopped at a street vendor and bought the little girl a long stemmed rose.  This is very common in Thailand as well.

 

Besides the street-walking prostitutes, a lot more women meet their “clients” on dating websites.  Guys who get a sudden burst of online attention from young, hot women want to believe that they have stumbled upon a dating paradise.

 

Sorry, dude.  That hot 20-something doesn’t really think you are cute, she’s just looking to get paid.  A high percentage of women on dating sites in busy South American tourist towns are working prostitutes.

 

Take a look at the photo below.  She liked my Tinder profile.  It’s funny.  I never have 24-year old girls interested in my profile at home.  I’m more than double her age and live in another country.  Do you really think she’s looking for a relationship with a dude like me?

 

At least this one is honest about what she’s doing.  Read her bio.  “Busco” means “I’m looking for” in English.

 

A lot of your online dating matches will be prostitutes. Not all of them will be this obvious.

 

The issue is so common down here that the locals have a term for a woman who trades sex for favors, travel, or expensive presents.  They call that girl a “prepago.”  It means “pre-paid” like a pre-paid credit card.

 

It denotes a woman who doesn’t directly demand money for sex like a regular prostitute, but instead will gladly provide sex to a man who “pre-pays” her with expensive dinners or gifts.  “Prepagos” are so common that women who are not prostitutes will often note they aren’t “pre-paid” directly on their dating profiles.

 

Here is another woman who swiped on my Tinder profile.  Note what she says in her bio: “no soy prepago o amigos con derechos.”  It means “I’m not “pre-paid” and will not be a “friend with benefits.”  That shows exactly how common prostitutes are using dating apps to get their clients.

 

 

If you are single and in the dating market, be extra cautious about your online dating matches.  Down here some of the girls use scopolomine to knock out their dates and rob them blind.  Others will lure them to a secluded location where they are robbed by the hooker’s friends.

 

Meet all your dates in a public place.  If you are going to get intimate, take your date back to your hotel or rental rather than going back to your date’s place.

 

One other good thing to do is to ask your date if he/she has identification.  You can tell them (whether true or false) that the security in your building is strict and won’t let anyone in without an ID.  Criminals don’t want you to know their true identity.  If they don’t have an ID, that should be a real warning sign.  If the name on their ID is different than on their online profile, that should also worry you.

 

Dating in other countries can be really fun, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.

 

Here’s the bottom line.  Even though I don’t partake in prostitution, I don’t judge.  I think consenting adults (not trafficked children) should be able to make an agreeable business relationship, even if it involves sex.  That doesn’t diminish the potential dangers of being around a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers.

 

Where people are openly selling sex, it’s an indication that the people in your location likely abide by different social norms than what is common in the place where you live.  You should be alert to the fact that if some social norms are drastically different, it is likely that other norms are different as well.  That makes social situations harder to judge and places you in a bit more danger.

Be extra careful in these areas.

Don’t Use Your Hotel Safe

Don’t Use Your Hotel Safe 800 450 Greg Ellifritz

I once strongly advocated for storing money and passports in a hotel safe while traveling in a foreign country.  I think very differently now.

 

What changed was that some traveling companions of mine in South Africa had several hundred dollars taken out of their locked room safe.  The thief opened the locked safe, stole the money, and re-locked the safe.

 

 

It ended up being a member of the housekeeping staff who stole the money.

 

You know there are members of the hotel staff who have the master key or master code to open every safe in the event a guest forgets his combination.  How secure do you think they keep that key/information?

 

Even without the key, one can make an educated guess about the combination and be successful.  Read the article below for more details.

 

How To Deal With Stolen Cash From In-Room Safe? (Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok)

 

27% of hotel safes are programmed with one of these codes.

 

I stopped putting my valuables in hotel safes.  Instead, I lock them in my luggage with a non TSA-approved lock.  I think that would be your safest bet.

 

 

 

Common Hotel Scam

Common Hotel Scam 585 391 Greg Ellifritz

If you ever stay in hotels, you should read this short article.  This is an extremely common scam.  I’ve responded to complaints of this happening more than a few times in my police career.  Interestingly enough, this scam is probably more common in the USA than in foreign countries.  Many locals in foreign countries don’t have the English language skills to pull this one off.

 

Be especially alert for calls like this in the early morning (4am-6am).  That’s when I’ve seen this scam happen most often.  People are drowsy and less aware when they have just been awakened from a sound sleep.

Two Great Travel Scam References

Two Great Travel Scam References 746 382 Greg Ellifritz

In doing research for my future book on travel scams, I recently came across these two excellent resources.  Together, they provide a solid education to keep you from falling from the most common travel swindles.

 

 

How To Spot Signs of Being Scammed While Traveling

 

 

The video below focuses on Barcelona, but you’ll see the same scams all over Europe and most of the rest of the world as well.

 

Barcelona SCAMS: Tips For Avoiding Crime and Pickpockets in Spain.

 

Violent Airplane Passenger- When to Get Involved

Violent Airplane Passenger- When to Get Involved 240 135 Greg Ellifritz

Recent news has been full of stories about violent and out of control airline passengers.  It’s fairly common.  People get nervous about flying.  They often use alcohol and drugs to self medicate.  On my flight home from a training class last Monday, there was a passenger in first class (a white male in his mid 60s) who was so drunk he actually fell down on the jet bridge getting off the plane.

 

Other passengers become irate with crowded airports, regular delays, cancelled flights, and mask mandates.  They lose their shit and attack passengers and crew.

 

Take a look at the article below about the passenger trying to open the door and breach the cockpit in flight.  The airline crew beat him over the head with a coffee pot until fellow passengers restrained him.

 

Emergency Landing After American Airlines Crewmember Hit Erratic Passenger With Coffee Pot

 

What would you do if you were on the flight described above?

 

For me, I’m not getting involved if a passenger attacks another passenger or a crew member.  If I am attacked, I’m going to fight.  If the cockpit is attacked, I will fight.

I’m especially worried about the cockpit attack.  If the attacker crashes the plane, we all die.  I also worry that an armed pilot will fire on the attacker.  Where is his backstop?  That’s right, his backstop is all of us riding in the plane.  Less than ideal.  I’ll beat someone’s ass to prevent being hit by a miss or pass through bullet the pilot fires.

Is Mexico Safe for Tourists?

Is Mexico Safe for Tourists? 399 297 Greg Ellifritz

I really like Mexico.  I’ve visited more than 20 times and lived there for a couple months last year.  One of the most common questions I get from my readers is about the tourist safety amid cartel shootouts and hits.

My general assertion has always been that tourists are quite safe in Mexico as long as they stay away from drugs and hookers.

 

Last week two Canadian tourists were killed near Playa del Carmen. It made me question my advice.

 

Nope. These weren’t tourists. They were drug dealers and the cartel put a hit out on them.  Read the link below.

 

 

You are likely in less danger as a tourist in Mexico than you are walking around your own home town.

 

Terrorism and Travel

Terrorism and Travel 787 218 Greg Ellifritz

This link provides an important batch of resources for researching terrorism trends in other countries. I find much of the information provided by the US government to be fear mongering.

 

I don’t pay too much attention to the US State Department Travel Warnings. I find that similar warnings from the governments of Australia and Great Britain to be far more accurate.

 

“Terrorism kills more people than sharks, but it still doesn’t kill many: your odds are 1 in 25 million worldwide (in the US, it’s even less likely). When you travel, it’s far more likely (1 in 5,862 in the US) that you’ll die in a plane crash than you will in an act of terrorism.”

 

Everything you need to know about terrorism and travel

Understanding the Kidnapping Business

Understanding the Kidnapping Business 300 200 Greg Ellifritz

When I teach travel safety classes, I always get lots of questions about kidnappings.  One must be alert to the possibility, but there are lots of tactics that you can employ to reduce your risk.  I have an entire chapter on the topic in Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places.

 

 

In addition to the mitigation tactics I describe in my book, I also find it helpful to understand how kidnappers get paid and their general business structure.  The article linked below provides some fascinating insight.

 

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market. How it is organized is surprising.

 

Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts

Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts 1920 2560 Greg Ellifritz

In my book Choose Adventure: Safe Travels in Dangerous Places, I cautioned tourists to avoid “helpful” locals at the ATM machine and to shield the keypad from view while you are entering your PIN number.  Watch this short video to see real-life examples of ATM scams and thefts.  It’s very well done and you can see how smooth many of these criminals are.

 

Watch Out for Scammers at the ATMs in Mexico

 

Checkpoint Bribery

Checkpoint Bribery 630 418 Greg Ellifritz

While I don’t think this is a good plan in our current policing culture (it will likely get you arrested anywhere you try it in the USA), I have used some of these techniques in foreign countries where I’ve traveled. It’s good to have information like this “just in case.”

 

How to Bribe at Checkpoints – Prepper Negotiation Skills