7th Street Prostitution

Sex Offender
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Over the past two months, 23 News has been working on an undercover investigation, exposing Rockford's 7th Street like you probably have never seen before.

It’s a rare glimpse at the drug and prostitution trades, and what is resulting because of them.

You can feel it on the street. The pain of a neighborhood gone bad. A man beat over the head with a baseball bat while riding his bicycle. Why? The drugs ... the street lined with prostitutes, drug dealers and pimps. Each one has a story that brought them here.

Stehpanie was a prostitute on 7th Street for almost a year.

"I'd gone through a divorce, a lot of things changed in my life that didn't make me feel good about myself. So I used drugs, and prostitution was how I supported that.”

Prostitutes can make as much as $60,000 a year on 7th Street, more than $2,000 in a single day. It's money to fuel addictions to cocaine and heroine. Drugs easily found on the street.

"There's just so many types and walks of life that addiction can pull down that no one will ever become a better person till they realize just because you use a drug, that doesn't mean you are a bad person."

But tell that to people like sherry Rosario, "This is where we find the needles."

She has nine kids, eight of them girls. The family protests drugs and prostitution on 7th Street, so far the only thing they have to show for it is broken windows.

"We get pushers with drugs, prostitution, pimps beating up girls in my yard...it's a non-stop thing. Little babies may get raped, pick up crack needles, they could die because of it."

So what if anything can be done about the drug and prostitution problem, Rockford tactical officers set-up stings every week.

The city of Rockford shuts down drug houses.

Neighbors stage protests, none of it seems to wipe out the problem out.

Stephanie says the problem lies with humanity.

“There's always going to be somebody out there who doesn't feel good about themselves. People push them down...it spirals, and tumbles, and continues to fall from there."

The free fall normally ends up in a man's home we will call nick.

Nick says girls on the street he helps have no self-confidence.

They are starved for attention, with no grasp of trust and love.

"What upsets me most is people look down on them. You have to go deeper, rather than just looking at them on the corner. More than 90 percent of them are abused, I’m sure they didn't grow up saying I want to be a prostitute."

But they are, and that's sparking a new problem on 7th Street, sexually transmitted disease.

More than half of the prostitutes have Hepatitis C. The scars run deep for even those who escape.

Stephanie with her arm full of needle marks, to the man who never expected his bike ride would come to a painful end. No matter how much help seems to be given, the violence continues. It's a part of town and life few want to see, a part of town crying for help...and isn't being heard.