Amid all the successes in New York City’s lengthy fight to drive down crime, street prostitution represents a stubborn exception. Though the police deploy various stings and strategies to clean up neighborhoods, prostitution-related arrests in the city continue to be logged at a fairly steady clip, averaging around 4,200 per year since 2006, according to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Market forces and the Internet have pushed some sex work off the street, to where clients with more time and more money go. Such indoor workers include escorts, who work in brothels or independently, in their own homes; strippers who connect with prospective clients in bars and make dates for later meetings; and dominatrixes, according to a report by the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project.I think is interesting is that prostitution is moving from the streets where it's easily visible to the Internet using sites such as Craigslist and Backpage. This cuts two ways. One, it makes prostitution less visible and less of a blight on neighborhoods. This is a good thing for these neighborhoods. But it often pushes the activity to cheap motels which quickly become problems themselves. The other issue is this lack of public visibility means that the priority for taking enforcement action can slip allowing this problem to grow undetected until it becomes a serious problem that is much harder to combat.
The other area I think is interesting is that more and more agencies are going after the johns and are considering the prostitutes more sympathetically as victims of human trafficking or drug addicts. Personally, I think this is a very good thing. When I first started in law enforcement, police often wanted to lock up the hookers and would frequently let the johns go in order to further those ends. I think this sent the wrong message to the johns that this activity was acceptable and only the hookers were in the wrong.
The Problem Oriented Policing Center has two books in their excellent POP Guide series that cover street prostitution and human trafficking.
Does your community have a problem with street prostitution? What is your agency doing to combat this problem?