A look of “oh, no” flashes across their faces, followed quickly by pained regret.
Single, married, divorced. Young, old.
They come driving down I-20 with cash and condom in hand.
Many have just gotten off work from solid corporate jobs, making a pitstop on their way back to bedroom suburban communities, homes, families.
Or they’re unemployed. One even rode over on a bicycle one time.
The Conyers Police Department has been cracking down on prostitution activities at local motels and hotels and holding regular stings this year. The latest on Wednesday night netted two “johns,” or prostitution customers.
Along with increased patrols, the stings have brought down other criminal activity such as entered autos, car thefts and the other violent incidents at the motel and hotel areas, say police officials.
Last year, there were even some reported cases of human trafficking and underage trafficking, where women were held against their will - something the CPD had not seen reported before.
Conyers Police are under no illusions they’re going to stop prostitution. “We could do this every night and still get someone coming in,” said Lt. Chris Moon.
But they want the message to be loud and clear to any johns thinking of stopping by Conyers for criminal activity: Keep on moving.
There are signs that message is getting out. During previous stings, there were callers who nixed their plans as soon as they heard the meeting point was in Conyers.
Social media sites are a big way prostitutes and johns connect. Undercover officers post fake advertisements for sexual services. When customers respond and come to the specified place, they are met with “Bob the Policeman” instead of “Bambi,” as Chief of Police Gene Wilson likes to put it.
It’s close to the end of the workday Wednesday and it doesn’t take long for the first pandering suspect of the evening to come knocking.
An unassuming-looking 46-year-old Conyers man, Steven Manders, still wearing a work cap and shirt from Delta, looks at the sudden swarm of officers in the room. He steps back from the door. Officers quickly retrieve him and he faces them with quiet resignation.
He tells them this is his first time doing something like this, something officers find hard to believe.
“I was going for a massage,” he offers feebly.
“What if the public saw that ad,” asks a skeptical officer. “Would they think that you were just going for a massage?”
The second john is a younger man. A 27-year-old Stockbridge resident, Olwalabi Yusuf, also still dressed in his work clothes from Direct TV. He is frozen to the spot as the door swings open to reveal a room full of officers.
Yusuf exchanges a look with an officer as he’s handcuffed.
They check him for weapons and empty his pockets. A Trojan condom. $105 in cash. Wallet. Android phone with a cracked screen.
“You made a bad decision. Doesn’t make you a bad person,” says an officer.
“I knew it was a setup,” Yusuf mumbles.
He says he was given the phone number by a friend.
“And then what?” asks an officer, asking what he thought was going to happen.
The officer asks about the phone call he had with a woman, who is actually an officer acting undercover in the next room. She gave him directions; he told her he had $50 and big genitalia.
“Does it ring a bell?” the officer asks.
He is read his Miranda rights. He has his work truck with him. When officers attempt to call Yusuf’s associate to pick up the truck, they are blessed out by the associate. The truck is impounded.
When asked why he came if he thought it was a set up, Yusuf puts his head between his knees.
Both johns face a night in Rockdale County Jail and a visit to the judge in the morning for bond. Both are charged with pandering for sexual services, a misdemeanor offense.