SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Busted, twice, in less than a year.
Springfield police nab a handful of men for soliciting prostitutes, but a slight location change this time has made Grant Beach Park's biggest advocate quite proud.
We don't have an exact number, but Springfield police arrested fewer than ten men in two areas Wednesday night in a sting operation that lasted four hours.
One was Grant Avenue and Lynn. But-- and this is important-- it happened outside Grant Beach Park's boundaries, a place, according to its unofficial watchdog, that's been transformed.
"This park is being used for family activities- yay- that's what it's for."
One year ago, though, it was seedy activities that put Grant Beach Park on the map and put Lori Ross at the helm of a one-woman patrol.
"It made me mad that a decent woman couldn't walk down Grant Avenue or come to the park without men harassing them," Ross tells us.
Ross almost single-handedly weeded out the prostitution in the park.
"I went on the attack; I said somebody needs to stop this."
She took tag numbers and called police admittedly, "until they got tired of me."
Tired enough to do a sting that Ross says stung.
Nine men were arrested in the park late last summer. None have been arrested for soliciting there since.
"It makes me feel protected. It makes me feel like the police department is truly trying to get rid of this problem," says Ross.
She has become somewhat of a fixture at Grant Beach Park. These days it doesn't take much for her to scare away suspicious looking characters.
She still writes down license plates but typically she just observes. Eventually, they take notice and usually walk away.
"Up at the bus stop, they still hang there occassionally," Ross says, pointing to a sheltered bench on Grant Avenue.
Ross let's police know.
"It was a targeted operation done with our COP officers," explains Corporal Matt Brown of Wednesday night's sting.
It was almost as successful as the first; maybe more gratifying for Ross because- "we were not targeting the park, focusing on the park, because there isn't an issue in the park," says Brown.
Ross says she's not due all the credit. There's the new pool and community garden, but none may be as formidable as the Grant Beach Park vigilante.
Springfield police paid for both stings through a community development grant.
They are expensive and time-consuming operations, so they determine the need by meeting with neighborhood associations.
That now includes Lori Ross. After her efforts to elicit police response last yea she was elected vice president of the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association.