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May 07

Hey Big Spender!

Comments (3) 11:00 AM posted by admin |

Prostitution and Ypsilanti and unfortunately linked together.

If you live in the Historic South Side, Riverside, or Miles Street neighborhoods, then you are all too familiar with prostitutes walking the streets and the johns who seek out their services. It’s a quality of life issue that frustrates residents to no end. Everyone wants to know what can be done to correct the problem.

Many advocate the legalization of prostitution, arguing that the world’s oldest profession isn’t going to fade away. It’s also supposed to be a victimless crime, but buying another person is hardly human. These women, according to the Ypsilanti Police Department and treatment groups, are drug addicts who need money to feed their habits. They are victims.

Studies have shown that legalizing prostitution dramatically increases all facets of the sex industry, increases organized crime’s involvement in the sex industry, increases child prostituion, increases the trafficking of women into the region, and increases violence against women. [Ed. note: The studies referenced cannot be linked to beause I’m not going to pay for access to them, but a list of sources may be found HERE].

Women, and sometimes young teenagers, become victims as well. An area with active prostitution is “simply a retail facade for johns to shop at, at least in their minds.” It was reported by one resident at the last City Council meeting that vehicle stop and solicit practically everyone walking along the street from wives and girlfriends to college students on down to thirteen year-olds. This type of predator behavior unnerves those living in these areas and often restricts them from being in their own front yards as a result of the harrassment.

Drug activity then follows prostitution. All of the neighborhoods mentioned above have had drug dealers take up residency in order to better conduct business. This, in turn, attracts more drug users. These users need ways to finance their habits. That’s when your garage or porch or car becomes an inviting resource for stuff to fence. Larcencies and burglaries rise but the overcrowding situation at the County Jail means these people are released back into the community to continue the cycle.

So what’s the solution?

In 1999, Sweden approached their prostitution problem by classifying it as an act of male violence against women and children. The underlying element to their ground-breaking legislation was to 1) criminalize the buying of sex, and 2) decriminalize the selling of it. Men who exploit women by purchasing sex are criminalized and the prostitutes are treated as victims who need help. In just five years, Sweden reduced the number of women in prostitution by two-thirds and the number of johns was reduced by 80%.

For such a plan to succeed, it requires a great deal of equality among men and women. It also requires a relatively high employment rate in order that women can effectively support themselves in other ways. In addition, access to effective social services and proper funding of said services is paramount. Most importantly, for something like Sweden’s policy to work, it has to be enacted at a national or state level.

So the question still remains, what’s the solution?

Increased enforcement by the police has proven to be ineffective. Prostitution has been a problem whether there are fifty-four sworn officers or forty. While sting operations can lead to a large number of arrests, the infrequent number of them isn’t a deterrent to activity.

If neither changing the law or enforcing it more won’t help, then how about shame?

Obviously Ypsilanti isn’t Puritanical, 17th century Massachussets. We no longer put law-breakers in the stocks in the middle of the town square and throw rotten fruit at them to humiliate them. However, it’s a practice that has been used in modern-day America with regard to prostitution, and it’s been surprisingly effective.

In June of 2005, Chicago began posting the names and pictures of every john arrested (not arrested and convicted) of solicitation on the City’s website. In the first month, the website received more than 497,000 hits.

Beginning in 2005, Oakland, where one in four prostitutes are underage, convicted johns risked the possibility of having their photos plastered on 10-foot by 22-foot billboards throughout the city. By January of 2006, the practice was halted, but this was due more to Oakland’s willingness to post johns merely arrested for proesecution. This practice ingnored constitutional rights and opened the city up to lawsuits by alleged johns who were exonerated at trial. In addition, there is a risk of branding not only the convicted johns, but their families and children as well.

In 2002, Denver began the practice of posting the photos of those convicted of prostitution on their website. In addition, Denver also airs a 30-minute community access cable TV program that displays the john’s photos, names, birth dates, and dates of convictions.

Kansas City, MO, Akron, OH, Canton, OH, Charlotte, NC, and St. Paul, MN all publish the photos of johns on the internet with varying results.

This begs the question, is this worth trying in Ypsilanti?

Maybe it is. The City of Ypsilanti is engaged in many businesses, one of those being that of law enforcement. A johns’ school already exists. It’s not like we are opposed to humiliation or shame. The City needs to make the most of the tools at its disposal be they forfeiture laws, the myriad of ordinances enacted to fight nuisance crimes, or technology.

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  1. Comment by Tin Foil
    May 9, 2007 @ 9:16 am

    Sounds like a good use for the billboard off I-94.

    Seems like if police can post wanted photos of suspects before they’re convicted, they could post pictures of “suspected” johns.

  2. Comment by brobb
    May 9, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

    The proposal is to post only pictures of those convicted.

  3. Comment by Kally
    May 17, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

    I’ve read where residents in other cities have taken their video cameras out and started filming both the prostitutes and the johns, especially trying to get license plate numbers. Digital cameras and even disposable cameras were also used.

    A friend of mine out in Arizona said a concentrated campaign for her neighborhood group and other such groups resulted in protitution moving outside of the city. It didn’t cost the city anything, since everyone was using their own equipment. Although, she said, the police made sure to patrol in those areas a bit more to see how both the hookers and the johns responded to these tactics. The citizens also had to be willing to introduce their tapes and pictures in court.

    The johns were either arrested or left and the prostitutes, deprived of their income, soon followed. My friend said there were a couple of incidents where drug dealers threatened citizens, but the group immediately filed complaints with the police, which provided police with cause to arrest them and search their residences, resulting in even bigger charges than harassment against the dealers.

    I think what this shows is that private citizens have to band together, agree to be strong and stand up against this activity and clean up their own neighborhoods. We can’t wait for the professionals to do it all for us. The police are willing to work with us, but we have to be willing to do some things for ourselves.

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