Rocky Mount Prostitutes: Why Some Keep Working The Streets, How Others Stopped

It's been almost two months since Antwan Pittman was sentenced to life in prison for killing Taraha Nicholson - one of many prostitutes found dead in rural Edgecombe County over a period of several years. Although he's suspected in the deaths of the others, he's never been charged - and there are still plenty of women working the streets in nearby Rocky Mount, unsure whether a murderer could be their next customer.

But even with that risk, they continue to sell themselves for money.

WITN's Hilary Magacs headed out with Rocky Mount Police to take a closer look at the issue.

It wasn't long before police point out a well-known prostitute walking by who later agrees to tell her story.

The woman has three kids under the age of five, and says she works the street to support them. How much she makes depends on the customer. "$30.00, $20.00, something like that. But I know it ain't worth it, doing stuff like that because people are getting killed."

She's not risking her life just for her kids. Like many prostitutes, she says she's addicted to drugs. "I smoke marijuana and sometimes Crack."

Lieutenant Marty Clay isn't surprised. He says drugs and prostitution go hand-in-hand. "They have to have money for their addictions in one way, shape or form, and the only commodity they usually end up with is themselves."

That's exactly what a former prostitute who has since turned her life around says happened to her. She says she she got hooked on crack cocaine and turned to prostitution soon afterwards.

But one time, a customer was extremely violent towards her. She says it's what finally pushed her to go to rehab and stop working the streets. "I had a near death experience with an individual, you know. And it's something that will stay with me throughout the rest of my life."

Lt. Clay says the only way prostitutes can avoid being victimized is to stop working in the sex trade- but because it's addiction fueled, he says it's not that easy to do. To try to stop the vicious cycle, Clay says the police department conducts sting operations.

Clay says they're charged with misdemeanors and sometimes felonies, if they have drugs on them. He also says they're also given information about ways to get off the streets - like going to My Sister's House, a half-way house for victims of violence.

Executive Director Meredith Holland says the shelter partners with drug counselors and also teaches life skills, so when they leave, they're better prepared to get a job.

The former prostitute we talked with says prostitutes have to want to stop doing drugs before they can ever get off the streets. "My message for the girls that are still out there on the streets, even for the men out there working the streets, that life don't stop for no one, you know? And there's something out there better to life than doing drugs, you know? It's a bigger world out there, it really is."

The woman we talked with who is still working the streets says she too hopes to turn her life around and get off the streets.