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Police: Women treated as victims in Camden County prostitution sting

Eight people were arrested during an undercover prostitution bust at a hotel on the Black Horse Pike in Gloucester Township, N.J.

Eight people were arrested last week during a prostitution bust at a hotel in Gloucester Township, N.J.

The operation, which involved an undercover officer posing as a customer and ordering prostitutes from a website, took place Friday, Dec. 5, police said.

Its goal was "to target those promoting prostitution and the networks that facilitate the sex trade" while treating the alleged prostitutes "as victims, not criminals," according to a news release from the Gloucester Township Police Department.

"We must begin to focus beyond the belief that arresting someone is the only way to fight crime," Gloucester Township Police Chief W. Harry Earle said in a statement touting community education, prevention efforts and "re-defining what a victim is."

The staff and management of the unnamed hotel on the 800 block of the North Black Horse Pike fully cooperated with law enforcement, police said.

Three men – Steven Durham, 58, of Lindenwold; Francis T.D. Hamilton, 50, of Upper Darby; and Felix S. Vazquez, 40, of Northfield – were charged with promoting prostitution for allegedly acting as drivers for the "dates" arranged with the undercover officer.

Five women were arrested for allegedly engaging in prostitution.

They immediately spoke with a licensed clinical social worker employed by Gloucester Township police to provide counseling and social services guidance, and were then interviewed by specially trained detectives, police said.

Investigators also used a Mandarin translator from the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center to communicate with one of the women.

The women detained on prostitution charges were identified only as a 26-year-old from Gloucester City, a 45-year-old from Northfield, a 28-year-old from Havertown, a 34-year-old from Drexel Hill, and a 20-year-old from Philadelphia.

Also assisting in the operation, dubbed "Holiday Traffick," were investigators from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, the New Jersey State Police, and the Magnolia, Pine Hill and Runnemede police departments.