Neighbors organizing to fight street prostitution along 82nd Ave.

While officials say they’re making plans and creating programs to curb the new explosion of street prostitution, many neighbors say they’re “fed up” with having their local streets turned into brothels. See what’s up …

If it weren’t for “johns” – like this alleged street sex customer being taken in by a custody team during a summertime mission  – prostitutes and their pimps wouldn’t be so brazenly strolling along 82nd Avenue of Roses offering their services.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg spoke to East Portland Concerned Citizens – a meeting on which we reported a couple of weeks ago – she was asked about how the bureau was dealing with street level prostitution, now that Prostitution-free Zones have been discontinued.

Her response: “…The zones are no longer in place; this is a fact of life. We’re working on other strategies to deal with prostitution. Until we have an effective strategy in place, we are working ‘precinct-level missions’ to reduce it.” She noted that it isn’t possible to continuously run anti-prostitution missions, because they are highly labor-intensive. “Hopefully, we will have more effective strategies in place in a couple of months.”

Judging by the collective groan heard throughout the room, her answer didn’t sit well with the attendees.

Officers on an anti-prostitution mission arrest another suspect for peddling sexual favors on SE 82nd Avenue.

Intensive missions in August produce results
Responding to the concerns of neighbors and businesspeople along 82nd Avenue of Roses, officers from SE and East Precinct have been running anti-prostitution missions throughout the month of August.

According to Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz, officers conducted a total of six “missions” – targeted law-enforcement operations – to reduce the highly-visible, blatant street-sex trade on 82nd.

Four of the missions, Schmautz reported, were set up to allow prostitutes to proposition undercover police officers. Two additional missions put undercover female officers on the street, to see if customers (“johns”) would attempt to pick them up and propose sex for money.

“During the month, 64 individuals were arrested for prostitution-related crimes,” reported Schmautz.

Group prepares Town Hall Summit on September 15
One group, calling itself “Take Back 82nd Avenue”, says they’re organizing a Town Hall Summit on September 15 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at Vestal Elementary School, 161 NE 82nd Avenue (just south of E. Burnside).

“We’re holding this forum to develop a community-based and proactive solution session that empowers everyone with knowledge on how to deal with this issue at a house, street, business, and neighborhood level,” noted the group’s spokesperson, Dawn Rasmussen. “Additionally, we want to emphasize a humane approach to the women involved [in prostitution], as many [of them] are victims.”

They invited an impressive lineup of panelists – hopefully, she said, many of the city leaders will be on hand for the event. The auditorium at the school seats 400; the group is hoping that most of them will be filled with concerned neighbors.

Montavilla neighbors take action
Last Saturday, we met with a leader from a group calling itself “Montavilla in Action” (CLICK HERE to see their blog).

We learned these neighbors also feel they must take action because “82nd Avenue of Roses has turned into ‘Portland’s Red Light District’; the activity spills into all of the surrounding neighborhoods, especially our schools and parks.”

This group is obtaining signatures on a petition asking members of the Portland City Council to reinstate the Prostitution-Free Zone.

And, yet another group — from the Montavilla Neighborhood Association — is also holding a meeting they call “The Summit for Montavilla Neighborhood” on October 7 at Portland Community College Southeast Center at S.E. Division and 82nd. We’ll give you more details as they become available.

Starting in September, one police car will be dedicated, full time, to combating street sex in outer East Portland.

Police cruiser to target street-level prostitution
“The Police Bureau is currently dedicating one car to prostitution enforcement for a full ten-hour shift each day,” Sgt. Schmautz said on August 28. “The hours and location of patrol will shift, as individuals involved in prostitution activity change their behavior to avoid enforcement.”

We’ve asked to be allowed once again to ride along and report on this latest mission. We’ll let you know what we learn.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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