Should prostitution come with a stricter punishment?

Myrtle Beach, SC - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Prostitution seems to be a recurring problem in certain parts of Myrtle Beach, prompting some residents to wonder if the penalty fits the crime.

A 46-year-old Myrtle Beach woman is facing prostitution charges after agreeing to have sex with an undercover police officer for $50.  The woman was identified as Paula Renna Cody and a background check revealed she had a prior prostitution conviction in January 2009.

"Really these girls, they don't have consequences for what they do," Sea Dunes Hotel employee Amanda Hughes said.  "They go to jail for a few hours and then they get out and they're right back doing what they're doing before. Really the fines are not even that much."

According to the Myrtle Beach Clerk of Court on a first offense a person charged with prostitution can receive up to 30 days in jail or have a fine of up to $200 plus court costs.

If it happens a second time it could cost up to $1,000 or six months in jail, sometimes both.  A third offense is up to $3,000 or one year in jail, sometimes both.

If convicted of paying for sex, a person could face a fine of up to $1000 or spend 30 days in jail.

"It's a graduated offense," Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department said.  "The more they do it, the longer they should serve in jail."

Police records show there were 85 prostitution arrests in the city of Myrtle Beach in 2009.

This year there have already been 41.

"Don't just ignore it," Knipes said.  "Don't just say well it's been going on forever. Call us. We'll come down. We'll handle the problem. We might only move it and it might come back but we're going to do our job."

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.