Early this year, when the police busted a prostitution ring at a flat in Oshiwara's Meera Towers, a high-profile society housing several IAS and IPS officers, it was just the tip of a booming sex trade, involving mostly small-time actresses and models, in the Oshiwara-Versova belt.
Cops say they often receive information about flesh trade in the area, but find it difficult to rein in pimps as the business is mostly run from housing blocks in societies and chawls.
"The agents take flats on lease and further rent them out to couples on an hourly basis," said Sub-Inspector Vishnu Rathod of Oshiwara police station.
Officials attribute the thriving business to the presence of too many Bollywood aspirants. Since not all of them manage to get a break, to fund a lavish lifestyle, they often take shortcuts.
He said coffee shops and hotels were once used as pick-up points, but the pimps changed their modus operandi after cops began keeping a watch on these spots. "Now, groups of women roam around in the area in vehicles and solicit customers," he said.
The client is picked up in the same vehicle where he can choose a woman while on the move. "The pimp asks him to visit a particular apartment and wait there. After a while, the chosen girl reaches the spot," the source said.
The charges for using an already rented flat starts from Rs2,000 for two hours. Sources say the woman gets upwards of Rs5,000, while agents rake in much more.
The goings-on, however, have ruffled a few feathers among the locals. Sanjay Tahiliani, secretary of Padmavati building in Lokhandwala, said, "It is difficult to keep a tab on each and every house in a society. We can't stop anyone from visiting a flat unless the occupant objects to it."
Tahiliani said they have started verifying a person's background before letting a person hire a flat in their society.
"Recently, a couple approached our society, saying they were about to get married and needed a flat on rent. We found their version suspicious and flatly refused," Tahiliani said.
However, Hemant Nair, secretary of Lokhandwala Federation club celebration sports club, a prominent club in the neighbourhood, said, "Every society has its own set of terms and conditions for giving flats on rent. Members can object presence of suspicious visitors in a society. But these days most societies don't take any risks and avoid giving flats on rents to suspicious people."