HAMMOND | In a bare south Hammond motel room with bedspreads decorated with flamingos and sea shells, a Hammond police detective kept his eye on a door peep hole and a Homeland Security officer listened to the scanner.
A car could be heard pulling into the nearby parking lot Tuesday morning followed by the tapping of a woman's heels on the outside pavement. She entered another hotel room where an undercover officer was staying, but she quickly grew suspicious.
The two made small talk for a few seconds, then the officer got straight to the point. How much did she want for sex? She said he got the wrong impression and walked away.
Tuesday's encounter was part of the latest sting targeting prostitution in Northwest Indiana. Lake County Sheriff's Department Detective Darrick Hurst, the Hammond Police Department, two agents from the FBI and officers from Homeland Security spent the morning in hotel rooms in South Hammond and North Hammond.
Hurst trolled Backpage.com and printed out 30 listings of women with suggestive and explicit descriptions about wanting money in exchange for sex. The officers' efforts netted one arrest.
Hurst said he hopes stings like Tuesday's could lead to the formation of a task force to combat human trafficking in Northwest Indiana.
But it was not easy luring the women, who could lead officers to human trafficking rings, into hotel rooms. The woman in the previous encounter later told Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, who took part in the sting, she spotted an undercover officer looking into her car when she got into the hotel room.
Another undercover officer made contact with a woman and agreed to meet at the North Hammond location. But she told the undercover officer she recognized an unmarked undercover car in the parking lot as that of a Hammond officer. She left but later made plans to return. In the end, she never showed up.
Officers at the South Hammond location arrested Ashley Friske, 25, of Gary, who went into the hotel room and agreed to have sex for money, Miller said. She faces a prostitution charge.
A 43-year-old Gary man who dropped off Friske at the hotel was detained by police for questioning late Tuesday, Miller said. The man told officers Friske is his wife's friend and she offered to pay him $20 in exchange for the ride. Miller said the man might face promoting prostitution charges.
Though the day didn't result in as many arrests as officers anticipated, Miller and Hurst said they already are coordinating the next sting.
"It was a learning experience for me," Hurst said as they drove back to the Hammond police station.