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Six Nabbed in Center Wheeling Prostitution Sting

June 12, 2009
By IAN HICKS Staff Writer

WHEELING - For the second time in the past 15 days, Wheeling police conducted a prostitution sting which nabbed several thrill-seeking men on the streets of Wheeling.

Among the six men arrested for soliciting for prostitution in Thursday night's sting in Center Wheeling are:

- John P. Larch, 51, of Weirton

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- Peter David Byers, 34, of Jacobsburg

- Robert Flint Driscoll, 58, of Connellsville, Pa.

- William Martin Lample, 57, of Powhatan Point

- Thomas Ewing Phillips, 58, of Chillicothe, Ohio

- John Stephen Price, 55, of Wheeling.

According to Wheeling Police Chief Kevin Gessler, all of the arrests occurred near the intersections of 20th and 21st streets and Main Street. The six men were transported to the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, pending arraignment.

The sting is part of a series of directed patrol operations aimed at curbing nuisances in the city.

Gessler said today that in addition to the sting which netted seven men for soliciting on May 28, those operations ramped up recently as summer approaches have resulted in 24 arrests and citations since May 31, including Thursday's prostitution sting.

Those operations, Gessler said, focus on several quality of life violations and nuisances, not just prostitution. Examples of such nuisances include disorderly conduct, public consumption of alcohol, loud music and public urination.

According to Gessler, he's pleased with the results garnered by directed patrol operations in recent weeks.

"This is all up and above the normal resources that are always there," he said of funding for the directed patrols. "This allows us to focus on some of the complaints we receive from the community."

Directed patrol efforts since May 31 have focused on various areas of the city, including ballfields and city playgrounds where people routinely consume alcohol and create disturbances. Emphasis also has been placed on finding and arresting individuals who are wanted on outstanding warrants.

Gessler noted that three of nine recent operations have focused on prostitution. While those efforts have been successful in getting potential customers to approach undercover officers for sex, the prostitutes themselves are making themselves less visible.

"They're being very cautious and very afraid to approach our officers," said Gessler.

He said that could be a sign that the directed patrols, as well as the associated media coverage, are having the intended effect.

"I think it's really acting as a deterrent, which is what we want," Gessler commented.

Gessler said directed patrol activities will continue throughout the city, and officers from all units and divisions will be utilized in both plainclothes and uniform attire. Another objective is to focus on education and enforcement associated with the use of drugs and alcohol as part of the department's prevention efforts.

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