imageThe hunt for a hooker in Midtown proved a little more difficult over the weekend as Atlanta police posed as gay men seeking sex and busted scores of alleged prostitutes.

The arrests of 50 alleged male hookers along corridors long known for gay sex for sale—Cypress Street near Peachtree Street, as well as Ponce de Leon Avenue—came as the Atlanta Police Department notched 79 arrests in a days-long sting that ended Sunday.

Operation Summer Heat included 61 arrests for prostitution—50 men and 11 women, eight “johns” seeking a prostitute, and 10 narcotics arrests. In addition, seven vehicles were impounded and $1,000 was seized, according to the Atlanta Police Department. The sting started May 5, though it did not operate every day, and included the department’s undercover vice squad and Atlanta Proactive Enforcement & Interdiction (APEX) unit, which earlier this year replaced APD’s troubled Red Dog Unit.

“We’ve received many complaints about hustling and prostitution in these corridors,” Chief George Turner (bottom photo) said in a prepared statement on Monday. “We hope these arrests send a signal to the community that the APD is listening, and to lawbreakers that we are not going to tolerate this conduct.”

Officer Brian Sharp, one of two LGBT liaisons for Atlanta police, was on hand during portions of the sting, according to Carlos Campos, a spokesperson for the department. At other times, one of the agency’s LGBT liaisons was on call.

The sting included areas known for transgender prostitutes, though none of the 61 people charged with prostitution were identified as transgender, according to Campos.

“While our LGBT liaisons were present and assisted us with identifying any potential issues within those communities, none of the arrestees expressed a desire to be treated differently,” Campos said.

imageThe relationship between Atlanta police and the city’s LGBT residents has been strained since its botched raid of the Eagle in September 2009. LGBT activists have also criticized the department over allegations that some officers mistreat transgender sex workers, a criticism leveled at commanders in May 2010 when they introduced the department’s new LGBT liaison.

The issue came up again during a meeting of the police department’s LGBT advisory board in January as well as when it was reported that the department’s lesson plans for its LGBT diversity training includes the term “transvestite,” which is considered pejorative and offensive by some gay and transgender people.

The criticism prompted police to have Tracee McDaniel, a transgender activist and member of the department’s LGBT advisory board, and other trans activists take part in training for the new APEX unit.

On Monday, police warned that prostitution stings would continue as the activity increases in part due to warmer weather.

“This operation was a major success,” Vice commander Lt. Scott Kreher said in a prepared statement. “And it highlights our efforts at proactive policing, working with the community to address quality of life issues and APD units working together towards a common goal.”