Prostitution arrests highlight Greenville's escort licenses - FOX Carolina 21

Prostitution arrests highlight Greenville's escort licenses

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The city of Greenville's escort license application. (July 24, 2012/FOX Carolina) The city of Greenville's escort license application. (July 24, 2012/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The arrest of three alleged prostitutes last week raised an interesting question - are escort licenses legal in the Upstate?

Kerri Smith, 30, Ashley Singleton, 20, and Ashley Martin, 20, were all charged with operating without an escort license following deputies' prostitution sting at the Woodruff Road La Quinta Inn on Friday.

When some people think of escorts they think of prostitution, but legally, that is not the case. And in Greenville County, qualified candidates can get an escort license.

"An escort provides just what the word says - escort, companionship," said Beverly Pettit.

Pettit handles both the sex offender registry and escort licensure for Greenville County. She said there are only five people licensed to be escorts in the county - all female.

"One business has an owner and two escorts, but the owner also works as an escort," said Pettit. "The other business has an owner, an escort, but she also (works) as an escort."

You might be thinking - this is legal? In Greenville County? Yes it is, and it has been legal for more than 20 years.

In 1988, Greenville County passed an ordinance allowing escorts, escort bureaus and introductory services to operate, but with a license. An application can be found on the Greenville County website.

As for why the county passed the ordinance, Pettit said because Greenville was growing and more of these types of businesses were opening.

"In the early years of doing this, there were a lot more business licensed doing this here in Greenville," said Pettit.

The rules for the license are straightforward. Among the highlights:

  • The ordinance dictates there can be no client or escort under the age of 18.
  • No record of "moral turpitude" (arrests on sex-related or prostitution charges).
  • Legally, there can be no sexual contact. The term "escort" is in its strictest legal definition.
  • Anyone charged with any "immoral" conduct can have their license revoked.

FOX Carolina reached out to escort services for their take on the ordinance. We came across one escort service where a man was willing to answer our questions on the condition of anonymity.

He said his escorts are certified and mainly serve as dinner dates and as dates to corporate functions.

When asked what he thought of the ordinance, he said the law "was a good thing," adding that it helps protect the escorts and gives the business legitimacy.

From the county's perspective, they want to protect the escort's clients.

"It's making sure that these were not illegal activities, that the person that was availing themselves to these services is not walking into a situation where there is illegal activity," Pettit said.

The county stressed that the ordinance does not give escort businesses a pass for prostitution and added that escort businesses can run legitimately and legally.

Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved.

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