Street Sex: Part 3 Life after Prostitution-free Zones

Will NE Sandy Boulevard and 82nd Avenue of Roses be “open-for-protection” zones, now that the city ordinance restraining sex-on-the-street has expired? See what the cops say – and what some neighbors are doing about the situation …

Statistics show that primarily Caucasians are arrested for prostitution, such as the accused woman shown here, talking with Officer Lacey Sparling before the woman was sent downtown for booking.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In areas of outer East Portland where street prostitution flourishes, neighbors and business people say they’re astonished and dismayed that the Portland City Council allowed Prostitution-free Zone (PFZ) and Drug-free Zone (DFZ) ordinances expire – without even a hearing.

In addition to saying the “laws have not been effective”, Mayor Tom Potter also stateed that he was concerned because “data indicates a disparity in how the Drug Free Zone law has been enforced.”

A lengthy press release from the Mayor’s office, says that Mayor Potter commissioned Campbell DeLong Resources Inc. to conduct an independent analysis of how the law was being enforced, and whether it unfairly targeted minorities. The report’s summary: “… enforcement [is] focused on the poor and minorities — especially African Americans.”

Prostitution statistics: Mainly Caucasians arrested
Last week, we asked John Campbell, Campbell DeLong Resources Inc., if his study included statistics regarding Prostitution-free Zone enforcement.

“Our study was regarding Drug-free Zones,” Campbell tells us, “There was some discussion about Prostitution-free Zones. It was not assigned as a project.”

Official Portland Police Bureau statistics show that in 314 total PFZ arrests, 173 persons arrested were classified as “White”; 141 persons arrested were classified “non-White” – a category consisting of Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian persons.

Valerie Curry, Argay Neighborhood Association chair introduces a meeting of citizens who say they’re struggling to rid their neighborhoods of prostitution and drug dealing.

Beyond Exclusion Zones
As the ordinances expired, some neighbors got angry. Other neighbors got busy.

The Argay Neighborhood Association, chaired by Valerie Curry, organized a special meeting, open to everyone living and working in the affected area, on Saturday, September 29.

We were surprised to discover one of her guest speakers was John Campbell, the person who headed the Mayor’s race-disparity DFZ study. “The fact is, the PFZ and DFZ ordinances have expired. We can spend our time together complaining about it, or, decide what actions to take,” Campbell began.

John Campbell tells a group of neighbors in outer East Portland about how he combated crime in his North Portland neighborhood.

Started as community activist
Campbell told the group of 72 people assembled at Portland Fire & Rescue’s Station 2 that he got “fed up” with drug houses on his NE Portland street during the 1980s.

After leading a neighborhood effort to clean up his block – during which two of his cars were blown up in front of his house – Campbell says he started developing citizen involvement training programs. He went on to develop nuisance abatement manuals and rental property landlord trainings addressing drug issues.

“The [United States] Constitution says we don’t want police raiding homes based on one complaint,” Campbell states. “This was the beginning of my education. It takes steps, taken by many neighbors, to solve problems.

“At first, people try to prove ‘the system’ doesn’t work. We get mad and say we need new mayor, new city counselors, or a new police chief.

“But eventually, some neighbors come to the realization that the ‘cavalry isn’t coming over the hill’ to fix [their problems]. They then realize that they are in charge of their destiny. I call it ’empowerment through resentment’!”

After a neighbor, or group of neighbors, realize they are “in charge”, Campbell explains, it takes more than “table pounding at neighborhood association meetings” to get things done. “It takes leadership of others.”

Campbell writes a list of neighborhood issues suggested by the meeting’s attendees.

Steps toward neighborhood change
“Neighborhoods don’t solve problems like the ones you face, overnight,” stated Campbell. “There is no solution that will solve their problems within a week. I can offer you some steps to help change. It takes dedication to make it work. There is no magic fix.”

Campbell’s list of suggestions include:

  • Work with landlords to improve their facilities and tenants. “Don’t assume the landlord is evil. They usually want good tenants and happy neighbors.”
  • Report all crime. “Don’t think someone else called the police.”
  • Remove graffiti immediately. “Leaving it up says, ‘It is OK to do it here.’ Catching them comes second; clean it up first.”
  • Take away the opportunity for crime. “Don’t leave anything of value in your car and lock it. Keep your porch lights on all night long.”
  • Know your neighbors. “How many neighbors’ phone numbers do you have? If you don’t know your neighbors, it isn’t George Bush’s fault.”

Suggests unique neighborhood patrol
To combat street crime, like prostitution, Campbell suggests that neighbors begin a “foot patrol”.

While Campbell’s suggestions for fighting crime apply to theft and vandalism, neighbors ask how, specifically, they can combat prostitution.

“In Portland’s Overlook area, we felt uncomfortable with the ‘Junior Cop’ model – you know with orange jackets and walkie-talkies. Instead, we formed the ‘Neighborhood Garbage Patrol’. We wore t-shirts and walked the streets with garbage bags. It didn’t take long for neighbors to come out, talk and then walk with us.”

Crime reduction through environmental change
Returning to the topic of prostitution, Campbell says it takes three elements:

“You need a perpetrator with intent, a place where the crime can take place, and a victim. I call it ravenous wolves, sitting ducks, and dens of iniquity.

“We can arrest the prostitute, but we haven’t changed the situation that allows her to work there. How can we change the environment? This is the problem to solve,” Campbell says.

Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct Lt. Kevin Modica tells the group, “Call me. Communicate with me. Here’s my phone number …”

Law enforcement without PFZ and DFZ ordinances
Present and listening during the meeting is Lt. Kevin Modica, a 22 year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau.

The first thing Modica does, when he’s asked to speak, is to give out his cell phone number. “Communicate with me. I’m not going to get grumpy. We’ve been made aware it is an issue, more than ever before.”

Modica tells the group that the Police Bureau is dedicated to enforce the law. “We’ll engage all law enforcement techniques we have at our disposal. And, we’ll measure the results of our efforts and adjust our strategies.”

Modica describes the enormity of the “cycle of prostitution” as he puts it.

However, the lieutenant warns, “The cycle of arrest, release and rehabilitation doesn’t always cure the problem. We’re dealing with an ingrained, systemic problem. I’m not going to make idle promises on a Saturday afternoon. But, we are developing a strategy.”

Writing down license plates of customers, and descriptions of prostitutes who frequent their neighborhood helps, Modica says.

“All laws are an infringement of liberty,” Modica explains. “Every time we stop somebody, we’re infringing on their liberty. We need to make sure we’re talking to the ‘right’ person. We need to know we’re charging into the ‘right’ house.”

Police officers efforts supported by the Commander
The PFZ was a good tool,” Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs told us a few days ago. “Now, we have one less tool in our ‘toolbox’. But, we, as a bureau, will continue to enforce laws.”

Crebs says police are developing a specific program to combat street prostitution — the results of which will be evaluated every 30 days.

Asking for help from the community, Crebs says, “If you see a drug or prostitution activity, you must call the police so we can respond. Even if an officer can’t arrive on scene immediately, we will check the area.”

Crebs reminds us that all “calls for service” are documented. “These call records help us identify crime trends.  The more calls received, service calls received for a type determines how police resources are allocated.”

Next week:
Is prostitution a “real” crime? We ask the District Attorney’s office to talk how vigorously they prosecute street-level prostitution – and why.

Read STREET SEX: Part 4 – The Prosecution Rests …Or, Does It? right here, next week.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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