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Debby is tall and blonde and hardened well beyond her 18 years. Tonight she is working Harbor Boulevard, an Orange County hangout for prostitutes and pimps and the small-time punks who peddle their crack and heroin, and tomorrow maybe it will be Sunset Boulevard or San Diego or somewhere else.
Debby is a prostitute. The strips look the same after a while, wide avenues melting into an after-hours sea of neon dotted with motels, all-night coffee shops, adult bookstores and seedy bars. And there is. Lots of guys in business suits and nice cars. Not too long ago it was just another congested commercial thoroughfare slicing through the heart of Orange County from Costa Mesa north to La Habra--a bit tacky but always vibrant, always busy.
Some of the best of Orange County is represented here--Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center and the luxury hotels that surround them--but also some of the worst. Drug deals on some parts of Harbor are rampant, cheap motels cater to transients and pimps, and in recent years the boulevard has become a regular and lucrative stop on the national circuit of professional prostitutes. The prostitution problem has become so serious that the FBI is creating a regional task force to target pimps in Orange County.
An FBI spokesman in Los Angeles said the investigation would focus on the groups of women and their pimps who approach their trade like a traveling salesman: one week they are in Portland, Ore. The operation is basically going to be aimed at the pimps and not the prostitutes themselves, the spokesman said. The city of Santa Ana tried to go after prostitutes by declaring them a public nuisance and then barring them from the streets.
A Superior Court judge rejected the plan. A delicate gold chain with a single pearl is draped around her neck and a small black purse is swung over her shoulder. In it is a list of names and telephone numbers, some cash and a knife. She has been working Harbor for about 3 months. There is a hardness in her voice, a tone that says she has been through this before, but she seems vulnerable too, and just a bit scared.