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Well, it's a pretty nice jail," offers Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Griffin McKay, looking up momentarily from the paperwork strewn across the hood of a sheriff's patrol car in the empty parking lot that serves as a makeshift office during the department's prostitution busts on Santa Rosa Avenue. It's on a warm spring afternoon on Santa Rosa Avenue, the nearly four-mile stretch that runs south from Luther Burbank's old digs to Highway near Rohnert Park. That busy main street is home to a string of shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, cheap motels, low-rent trailer parks, used-car lots, and a lion's share of the local sex industry.
In the dark underbelly of the avenue--where the lonely seek the desperate with often tragic results--nobody is having a good time, whether you glimpse the action from the perspective of the cops, hookers, residents or AIDS workers who are trying to curtail the danger of the skin trade. The Case for Legalization For Beth--a short, squat, haggard-looking year-old with dirty blonde hair and badly rotting teeth--the bust is the latest jolt in what clearly has been a very hard road.
She is clad in a faded brown leather bomber jacket, low-cut T-shirt, filthy black stretch pants, and tattered cloth slippers. Three years ago, she started working the mean streets along Eureka's waterfront "and doing whatever else" she had to do to support her habit.
She has lost custody of her three children. More recently, Beth claims, she has been trying to turn her life around. For the past three months, she has received methadone--a potent but legal synthetic substitute for heroin--at a local drug rehab clinic, where she is trying to kick her habit. But the streets have taken a toll.
I want to have money to spend on other things. I just don't want to do this anymore. I don't think I can handle that. Those who live and work in the area--some of whom say that the county has "dumped" a lot of the sex industry on their doorsteps because of the presence of the Santa Rosa Adult Book and Video Store and Everybody's Talking topless bar--report finding used condoms and dirty syringes in yards, along sidewalks, and in used-car lots.