Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 14, 2010

Falls cops hit hookers on Niagara Street

NIAGARA FALLS — Falls Police Officer Joe Palermo told every hooker that hopped into his unmarked car on Friday night the same thing.

“If the cops stop us,” Palermo told them, ‘Tell them I’m your Uncle Bill.”

However, by the end of a three-hour blitz of Niagara Street, Palermo probably wasn’t their favorite uncle.

The veteran Roving Anti-Crime Unit officer, and his partners, RAC Officers Nick Granto and Rick Fleck, collared eight woman on prostitution-related charges. They also charged a Falls man with soliciting a streetwalker.

“Nick and I try to stop at a lot of the business on Niagara Street,” Palermo said, “and they’ve been complaining for the last couple of weeks about prostitutes between 19th and 24th streets. A lot of the residents down there said (the prostitutes) were everywhere.”

The RAC officers also noticed that the ladies of the evening were hitting the streets early in the evening, before the time when the undercover officers are normally on patrol.

“Because we noticed the activity earlier in the day, we switched it up and we started (the blitz) at 5 p.m.,” Narcotics Division Captain Morris Shamrock said. “We needed to get their attention and let them know, we’re not going away.”

Within 10 minutes of cruising the Niagara Street corridor, Palermo had his first arrest.

“They’d wave you down, I’d pull into an alley and they would run up and jump in my car,” Palermo said. “Then they’d say, ‘Can you give me a ride? Do you need anything?’ ”

At one point the action was so fast and furious, that Palermo pulled over for a hooker and another car pulled right in behind him.”

“She was running towards me and then this car pulls in behind and she hops into his car instead,” Palermo said. “I don’t know, maybe he outbid me.”

Patrol officers were called in and pulled the car over. Both the driver and his passenger were charged.

The driver, Elbert Lee Sturdivant, 55, 1113 Pierce Ave., was charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution. His passenger, Vera Mangel, 31, 5647 Niagara Falls Blvd., was charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after officers found Hydrocodone tablets in her possession.

Officers picked Up Saprina Draqueena Banks, 24, 856 80th St., Apt. 112, and charged her with loitering for the purpose of prostitution after she too flagged Palermo down and jumped in his car. She told arresting officers that Palermo was, “My Uncle Bill.”

An hour after Banks arrest, police received a complaint of “an abandoned child” at a home in the 400 block of 19th Street. The RAC officers discovered that Banks had left her 1-year-old daughter with a friend and told her she would be “right back.”

The friend said it wasn’t the first time Banks had left her daughter on 19th Street while she worked Niagara Street.

“When I started, (Niagara Street) was a clean and quiet neighborhood,” Shamrock said. “I want to see it get back to what it was.”

Bari L. McHugh, 36, 453 17th St., Apt, 2, was arrested and charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution. She told the officers, “I can’t believe I’m arrested for waving at my uncle.”

When officers told her Palermo was a cop, not her uncle, she insisted, “No, I swear, that was my uncle.”

McHugh was also charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance because she had Xanax pills in her possession.

Also arrested and charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution were Shidavia A. Sansbury, 22, 3017 Orleans Ave., Terri Lynn Bills, 41, 1622 Niagara St., rear apt., Kahla Rose Waltermire, 27, 1937 Welch Ave., and Jessica Faye Christopher, 38, 1153 LaSalle Ave.

When the RAC officers took Pauline E. Nevins, 30, 1810 Welch Ave., lower, into custody and charged her with loitering for the purpose of prostitution she told them she, “was just trying to get some money to get back to Philadelphia.”

“This is all part of our continuing campaign to address quality of life issues on Niagara Street,” Shamrock said.

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