When Harold Jones got pulled over recently on Southeast 82nd Avenue with two known prostitutes in his car and $110 in hand, the 76-year-old grandfather said he and the women were just on their way to McDonald's.

It was 10:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 30, and officers Mike Stevens and Randi Miller of the Portland Police Bureau's East Precinct had spent their shift nabbing prostitutes and johns along 82nd. They heard just about every excuse, but Chicken McNuggets was a new one.

In eight hours cruising 82nd, Stevens and Miller arrested five suspected prostitutes and johns, including Jones and his two companions. They warned three other women with a history of prostitution to get off the street, and they pulled over a convicted pimp seen harassing women.

As neighbors on 82nd demand a clampdown on prostitution and City Hall rolls out its plans, a day riding with Stevens and Miller makes two things clear: The cops are completely overwhelmed, and most prostitutes have no intention of going away.

"A lot of these girls are saying they're out here for the money, that's it," says Stevens, a Harry Connick Jr. look-alike with a dry wit and mirrored shades. "They say, 'Why work at Wal-Mart and make $50 a day when I can make $50 in 10 minutes out here?'"

Last week, Mayor Tom Potter announced a plan to crack down on prostitution along 82nd, including community policing, more aggressive prosecution, and extended social services.

And at a neighborhood meeting Monday night at Vestal Elementary School on 82nd, City Commissioner Randy Leonard urged neighbors to back Potter's plan, which mirrors one Leonard first proposed in July (see "Street Fight," WW, Aug. 13, 2008). Leonard was joined onstage by East Precinct Cmdr. Mike Crebs, who promised the crowd that cops would rid 82nd of johns, pimps and prostitutes in three six months. (See WWire for more details about Potter's news conference and the neighborhood meeting.)

Since mid-August, Miller and Stevens have been assigned out of East Precinct strictly to police prostitutes on 82nd. Along with a similar team for Southeast Precinct, Miller and Stevens have learned just how tenacious and fearless prostitutes and johns can be.

On an undercover mission as a prostitute, Miller had one john whip out his penis before they were even finished negotiating a price. Stevens, posing as a john, had to fend off prostitutes grabbing at his crotch. Bureau policy prohibits sexual contact, a fact the women know and exploit to check whether a john is an undercover cop.

Miller and Stevens began their afternoon Aug. 30 following Shavonte Kelly, a 19-year-old walking along 82nd with a bag of sunflower seeds and a tight pink T-shirt that said, "Can't Hold Me Down."

After watching Kelly wave at passing cars, they gave her a choice: Get cited, or fill out a survey.

Kelly chose the survey, saying she makes $1,000 a week turning tricks and uses the money to care for her 3-year-old son. She was defiant and dismissive toward the cops, until Miller asked how her personal life may have affected her career choice.

"Probably feeling disowned sometimes, not loved," Kelly said, glancing down at her white leather sandals on the hot sidewalk.

The officers also gave a warning to Mary Vido, a 41-year-old woman with deep lines in her face and a long record of prostitution and drug arrests. Vido described her efforts to kick heroin and her encounters with johns. The day before, Vido says, one john drove around refusing to let her out of his car. Another who cruised the avenue in a purple pickup was known to be infected with HIV, she said.

With help from Southeast Precinct officers, Miller and Stevens cornered a Dodge Caravan that had picked up a woman and pulled into a strip-mall parking lot. The back was filled with blankets and pillows, a ready-made sex nest.

The passenger, Mary Lyback, admitted she'd been negotiating for sex—she was hoping to give a $20 hand job, because she was menstruating. The driver, Michael Sullivan, said he just wanted to take her to dinner.

"I think she's cute," said Sullivan, a 54-year-old from Northeast Portland, as the two were arrested and taken to jail for attempted prostitution.

Lyback, 39, had gear for shooting heroin in her bag. According to the police survey, 52 percent of prostitutes questioned had prior arrests for drugs.

"You probably wouldn't be out here if you weren't using," Southeast Precinct Officer Kris Barber told Lyback as tears streamed down her hollow cheeks.

"I know it," she said. "I know it."